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CAKADA .... 



64 A- 66 Fifth Avenue. NUW YORiv 

ao- Flinders Lanr, MELBOURNE 

ST. Martin-s House. 70 street. TORO.Nl". 

3o.y liuw Bazaar Street. CALCUTTA 












Tin: Ni:w Yor?K| 

ASTOn, LEr«OX Ann 

T\LbZu FOUNDAriO.-.'9. 


















MERCATO NUOVO _ - _ Frontispiece 



3. A cook's shop, WHERE WINE AND OIL ARE SOLD - 1 6 


5. MONKS AND NUNS - - - - ~ 3^ 






10. OLD HOUSES BY THE ARNO - - - "73 



TOP OF THE DUOMO - - -On the cover 

A Picture- Plan of Florence inside front cover 


The MARZOCCO, or Symbol of the 
Power and Rights of the Republic 
OF Florence. 

[The name Marzocco is supposed to be derived 
from that of Martc (Mars), the god of war, who 
in ancient times was believed to be the protector 
of the city of Florence. A statue of this god 
stood near the Ponte Vecchio, but during a flood 
it was swept away by the River Arno. After 
this, the figure of a lion, seated, and guarding the 
arms of the city, was substituted for that of the 
god, and placed in the Piazza della Signoria, in 
front of the Palazzo Veccliio, where the magis- 
trates resided. 

Now, however, like other statues of great 
value, it has been removed to one of the halls of 
the Bargello.] 




No one can enjoy a visit to the city of Florence without 
knowing a little of its history. For it is almost the 
greatest centre of Art in the world, and the Art that we 
see there is the work of men who lived from five to 
six hundred years ago. 

It is known as the Art of the Italian Renaissance, 
and, although we can see beautiful collections of pictures 
and statues and frescoes in other Italian towns, there is 
no other place where we can see so many of them 

Besides this, the history of the city is so wonderful. 
For in its streets and its houses we can read the story 
of what the life of a foreign town in the Middle Ages 
was, especially as Florence was a city that was governed 
by its own magistrates, and owned no allegiance to any 
outside ruler. These governing magistrates, of whom 
there were eight, were known as Priori^ and they only 
held office for two months at a time, at the end of which 
period others were elected in their place. 

These magistrates were all obliged to have a trade or 
profession. That is, they must belong to one of the 
great Guilds, or Arti, of which there were originally 
twelve — the Guilds of the Silk-merchants, the Physicians 
and Apothecaries, the Furriers, the Blacksmiths, the 

FL. I 

2 Florence 

Woolcombers, the Stockbrokers, the Hosiers, the 
Butchers, the Armourers, and so on, and if a noble- 
man wanted to become a magistrate, he must, in name 
at least, become a tradesman, and join one of these 
Guilds. Thus the Florence of olden days could have 
shown a very good example to our own time, in that 
she encouraged everyone to have a means of livelihood, 
and to be proud of the fact. 

Many of these merchants became rich and powerful, 
and founded families which ranked with those of the 
Italian nobility. Indeed, it was they who made 
Florence the important city that she was. They 
carried on trade, especially in silk and wool, with 
every part of the known world, " from Syria to Great 
Britain," and this brought immense wealth and fame, 
not only to themselves, but to the whole community in 
which they lived. 

It will help to show you how rich these men some- 
times were, when I tell you that one family, the Bardi, 
were the bankers of Europe — that is, they lent out 
money, just as a bank lends it to-day, and they supplied 
Edward III. of England with gold to carry on his wars. 

But, as was natural perhaps, these merchant-princes 
were very jealous of one another, and if the head of one 
family showed signs of becoming a person of more 
importance than the head of another, the latter simply 
gathered all his friends and dependents together, and 
did battle with his rival, and did not mind in the least 
If one or two of the combatants chanced to be killed. 
In this way there were always parties, or "factions," in 
the city, between whom there were constant fightings 
in the streets within the narrow walls, and often, when 
the leader of one party fell, his followers would be 

Florence in the Olden Days 3 

driven right out of Florence and banished ; just as in 
other countries — Scotland, for instance — a dead man's 
retainers were often " put to the horn," or outlawed. 

This state of things made the merchants who could 
afford to do so, build themselves huge palaces, which 
stood in the streets, but which were more often like 
fortresses, which they not only filled with all kinds of 
beautiful things — for we must not think of them as 
savage barbarians, but as highly cultured men — but 
in which they also defended themselves against their 

It would take too long to tell you about all these 
factions, but there were two in particular whose names 
will always be connected with the history of Florence ; 
— the Guelphs, and the Ghibellines. These names do 
not represent families, remember, they represent parties, 
just as to-day we have Conservatives and Liberals, but 
for a century, at least, the townsfolk ranked them- 
selves under the banner of one or the other, and hated 
all who were connected with the opposite side with a 
deadly hatred. And because they hated one another, 
they would fight with one another, and kill one another, 
for no other reason than that one was a Guelph and the 
other a Ghibelline. 

Later on, one great family rose steadily into power. 
This was the family of the Medici, who began by 
being bankers, but ended by becoming Grand Dukes 
of Florence, the title being created for them by the 
Emperor and the Pope. And, if you remember, one of 
their descendants, Catherine, became Queen of France. 

They were very wicked men in many ways, but they 
did a great deal for Florence, especially in extending 
her commerce and her Art. 

4 Florence 

During all these centuries, when quarrels and blood- 
shed were raging within the walls of the little city, 
another kind of life, and a very different kind, was 
going on at the same time. In quiet workshops, 
within convent walls, and in the great churches, a band 
of men, who came into prominence one after the other, 
and who were endowed with wonderful gifts of architec- 
ture, and painting, and sculpture, were working quietly 
at their crafts, giving little heed to the noise and tur- 
moil that was going on around them, and producing 
some of the most beautiful buildings, pictures, frescoes, 
and statues that the world has ever seen. 

A great many of these pictures, and statues, and 
frescoes were so made that they could not be carried 
away, but formed part of the fabric of the buildings of 
Florence — and it is this that helps to make the city so 
beautiful and wonderful, for, in order to see them, one 
must walk about its streets, and examine its old houses 
and palaces, and in so doing we cannot help learning as 
much about its life in the olden time as about its life in 
the present day. 

It is very curious how so many strangely gifted men 
were born in and around Florence. Perhaps it was 
because they were the descendants of the Etruscan 
nation, a people who lived in Italy, especially in Tus- 
cany, as this part of the country is called, as long ago as 
a thousand years before Christ, and who were so artistic 
that even the Greeks took their ideas of Art from 

They lived in little walled cities, perched far up on 
the hill-tops, and were great fighters, but at last, about 
400 B.C., they were conquered by the Romans, and were 
gradually merged into that race. A colony of them 

Florence in the Olden Days 5 

lived on the hill of Fiesole, overlooking the Arno, but 
as time went on, they lost their individuality as a 
separate nation, and came down into the valley, where 
a bridge had been built across the river to carry the 
highway which led from Germany and the centre of 
Europe, to Rome. 

Here a new town sprang up, known as Florence, or 
the City of Flowers, because it was built on a meadow 
in which flowers, especially lilies, grew profusely, and 
while, from its position, it naturally became a great 
commercial centre, the skill of the old artistic Etruscans 
still showed itself in many of her sons. 



Perhaps the best general view that we can get of the 
city of Florence is from the hill of Fiesole, which rises 
on the north-east side of the town. From here we can 
see the entire sweep of the Valley of the Arno, with 
what seems to be only the centre of the city crowded 
along its banks, while all round, ten miles in each 
direction at least, the low-lying hills are covered with 
what looks like dull-coloured brushwood, but which is 
in reality one vast olive-yard and vineyard, dotted 
thickly with tiny clusters of houses, or houses standing 
by themselves, so that the whole stretch of country 
looks like one enormous suburb. 

This is not so, however. The city is clearly defined 
by broad viali^ or boulevards, which have been laid out 
on the site of the old walls, the greater part of which 
were taken down in 1865, although portions of them 

6 Florence 

can still be seen. These walls were pierced by seven 
gates which are still standing, and give access to the 
surrounding country. Beyond the viali are numberless 
villas, half hidden by vines, olive-trees, and fig-trees, 
and standing in beautiful gardens filled with every flower 
and sweet-scented shrub that you can think of — roses, 
oleanders, jasmine, myrtle, heliotrope, and lilies. 
Farther out, these suburbs merge into little separate 
villages, which can be reached by a network of electric 
tramways, which run for miles along the roads in all 

When we go down the zigzag road which leads back 
from Fiesole, and enter the city itself, we are struck at 
once by its quaint, narrow streets, and by the way in 
which all the important buildings are crowded together. 
Not the churches — these are scattered all over the town, 
even in the more modern parts, for they were nearly 
always attached to convents, which were built outside 
the older and smaller city wall — but the Duomo, or 
cathedral, the market-place, the principal palaces, the 
great building which served as a town-hall, and that 
also which served as a prison, the old bridge, and the 
tiny little shops, in which various handicrafts have been 
carried on for hundreds of years. This is because the 
old city was very much smaller than the modern one, 
or even than that which was erected in the sixteenth 
century, and it stood within a much smaller space, 
enclosed by an earlier wall, which has now disappeared. 
Indeed, there have been three walls altogether, each 
one built to encircle a larger space of ground, as the 
town gradually grew and extended its boundaries. 

The houses are high, and most of them very 
large, being let in flats and apartments, and their walls 

The Florence of To-Day 7 

are covered with plaster or whitewash, which is not 
white, but tinted with the most dehcate shades of 
yellow, and brown, and pink, which makes Florence 
appear very clean at all times, and wonderfully beautiful 
when the soft colouring of her buildings happens to 
catch the rays of the rising or the setting sun. 

The roofs are tiled with dull red tiles. They do 
not slope very much, but they generally project two or 
three yards over the walls, thus forming very flat eaves, 
having great beams of wood underneath, and are most 
picturesque, as well as useful, for the strip of pavement 
under them is often quite dry after a shower of rain. 

A great many of the houses have loggias, or roofed 
balconies, if one can call them so, where the inmates 
may live in the open air, and yet be protected from the 
sun or rain. These loggias are quite a feature of the 
city. Sometimes they are only raised a few feet from 
the ground, and seem like low open balconies on the 
street ; when this is so, they generally belong to some 
great building which used to be inhabited by some very 
powerful family, who could in this way spend their 
time outside, and watch the life of the street, and hear 
what was going on, without actually walking there, and 
mixing with the crowd. Now they are used by every- 
one as nice shady side-walks, or as places in which to sit ; 
or, if they are outside a hotel or restaurant, as cool and 
open spaces for people to have meals in. And they 
are filled from morning to night with numberless little 
tables, covered with clean white cloths, which look most 
inviting to lunch or dine at. 

Other loggias are on an upper story, and they often 
have vines, or fig-trees, or great masses of wistaria 
trailing over their railings. But the most common 

8 Florence 

place of all for them to be situated is on the roof, and 
this is the most picturesque spot. 

We need to be on some high tower where we can 
look down on the rest of the city to see these loggias 
at their best. Even the poorest houses have them — just 
a tiled roof, supported by four plaster pillars, and a low 
wall all round to prevent anyone, especially a child, 
from falling over. Here we see the little touches that 
show the real life of the people — the boxes filled with 
flowers, which convert the tiny space into a roof 
garden ; the pile of work ; the bird in its cage ; the 
clothes hung out to dry ; even the appliances for cook- 
ing, with the stove fixed against the gable wall of a 
higher house — all these show how the Florentine people 
love the fresh air and sunlight, of which they have such 

There is no lack of seats in the streets, however, 
where people may sit down and rest, or watch their 
neighbours. These seats are not like ours, but are 
broad slabs of marble or stone, which run round the 
base of most of the great houses and churches. Here 
people are to be found at all hours, waiting for a car, or 
simply resting and talking to their neighbours. Quite 
late at night, in hot weather, we may see, in the public 
squares, whole rows of tired men and women, many or 
them old, who, their day's work done, have come here 
to enjoy the coolness of the evening air. . 

These stone ledges serve also as sleeping-places for 
workmen during their midday siesta. In Italy, in 
summer, it is too hot for anyone to work in the middle 
of the day, and men who may be engaged in the 
streets, paving, or hewing, or painting, simply lay 
down their tools, stretch themselves at full length on 


O . 



The Florence of To-Day 9 

some shady ledge, and go to sleep, heedless of the 

Some of the streets are so narrow that the over- 
hanging roofs almost meet overhead, and we can just 
see a slit of blue sky when we look up, but, somehow, 
the sun always manages to peep through the slit and 
shine down on the roadway below. 

Then, as we walk along, we are constantly coming to 
some old building which has a beautiful statue outside, 
standing in a niche, or on a loggia, or perhaps there 
may be a picture on the wall, covered by glass to 
preserve it from the weather. Or, what is more 
common, the picture may be formed of mosaics — that 
is, little pieces of coloured stone set in plaster. And 
as the background of these mosaics is very often formed 
of gold, you can imagine how brilliant they are when 
they catch the light of the sun. It seems strange to 
have such pictures out of doors, but of course wind or 
rain cannot harm this kind of work, and although it 
seems to us almost waste to have such beautiful thinp:s 
in the open streets, when we enter the buildings and 
see the wonders inside, we realize that the old masters 
could well afford to let a little of their work adorn the 
outside also. 

In the square of the Duomo, for instance, we almost 
feel as if we were in fairy-land as we look around us. 
There is the magnificent cathedral, second only to St. 
Peter's in Rome, entirely covered with marble ; — black, 
and white, and pink, — rising like a snow palace in the 
sunshine. Over every doorway, and in other places as 
well, are pictures in glittering mosaics, so large that the 
figures are life-sized, and all representing scenes from 
the Bible. 

FL. 2 

lo Florence 

Beside It stands a wonderful Campanile, or bell-tower, 
formed of the same fairy-like colours, with delicately- 
planned windows, or '* shafts," and marvellous carving. 
This is called Giotto's Tower, and it is considered one 
of the most perfect pieces of architecture in the whole 
world. Close beside these two buildings is a third, the 
Baptistery, also covered with marble, about which we 
will read in another chapter. All three are within 
a stone's throw of one another, while any one of them 
is beautiful enough to make a city famous tor that one 
building alone. 



Most of the houses in Florence are large, and ar)e 
divided into flats. The poorer dwellings are entered 
by doors from the street, but those which are inhabited 
by richer people almost always have a great arched 
doorway, like a doorway for a carriage to pass through, 
closed by a heavy wooden door opening in two halves, 
and adorned with large wrought-iron knockers. 

When these doors are opened, one sees a cool, broad, 
flagged passage, with often a little room opening out of 
it, in which the porter, or portinajo^ lives, if there chance 
to be one, or it may be let to some decent needle- 
woman or laundress. In the doors of these rooms 
we often see a little wicket, or sliding panel, and this 
takes us back to the days when these great houses were 
all inhabited by their owners, t^e heads of noble 
families, who had estates in the country, and who were 
not ashamed to sell the wine and oil made there through 
those little wickets, the porter, usually an old family 

Florentine Houses 1 1 

retainer, being the salesman. Now, however, times are 
changed. The wine and oil go direct to the merchants, 
and not so many of the great families have houses in 

When the owner of one of these houses lives in it 
nowadays, he occupies, as a rule, the first floor, which 
is quite large enough for all he requires. The ground 
floor he lets for offices or ware-rooms. In the flat above 
him will perhaps live one of his younger brothers, who 
is married, but still wishes to have his abode in the old 
home. The floor above that will be rented to other 
families, who pay a smaller sum in proportion to the 
number of stairs that they have to ascend. 

These stairs are very wide and cool, and are kept 
free from insects, which otherwise might be troublesome 
in such a hot climate, by being first sprinkled with 
paraflin, and then brushed over with sawdust, in the 
same way that housemaids use tea-leaves at home. 
The floors of the dwelling-rooms are treated in the same 
way, which is easily managed, as they are of tiles, and 
although a faint odour of paraffin is apt to cling to them, 
one knows, at least, that they are fresh and clean. 

All the windows are well protected, having wooden 
shutters inside to shut out the cold in winter, and 
wooden shutters outside — like stiff* Venetian blinds set 
in a frame — to keep out the sun in summer, and yet 
allow the window to be open, and air to come in. On 
the ground floor, where the rays of the sun are not so 
apt to penetrate, there are barred iron gratings over the 
windows, instead of these sun-blinds, which would make 
that part of the building look rather like a prison, were 
it not that most of them are beautifully wrought, and 
some of them bulge out in a curious way, so that the 

1 2 Florence 

people in the room inside can push their heads forward, 
and look up and down the street. These are called 
*' kneeling gratings," and it is interesting to know that 
it was the great Michael Angelo who invented them. 

Of course these gratings are placed over the windows 
to allow them to be always open in summer, day and 
night, without risk of thieves. 

The outside blinds are kept constantly closed during 
the day in hot weather, which makes the interior of the 
houses very dark, but it also keeps them nice and cool ; 
and as evening comes, and the sun loses its fierceness, they 
are pushed aside, and the light streams in. In winter 
the rooms are not heated with open fires, as ours are in 
England, but with stoves, in which quantities of wood 
is burned ; and in most houses the cooking is done on 
stoves also, which are heated by wood, or by charcoal, 
which, as you know, does not actually burn, but 
smoulders away without any smoke, until it is one deep 
red glow, which gives out an even heat, especially good 
for broiling meat over. It gives off dangerous fumes, 
however, so that it is never safe to burn charcoal in a 
bedroom stove. 

The wood for the household fuel has to be brought 
from the mountains, many miles away, and the charcoal 
also, which is prepared by the charcoal-burners before 
they send it to the city. If we chance to be travelling 
by night past the foot of any of these mountains, which 
are the spurs of the Apennines, we may see, far above 
our heads, a ring of fire shining out brightly in the 
darkness. Then we may be sure that the charcoal- 
burners are at work. 

In the city, both wood and charcoal are sold in the 
darkest of cellar shops, which have no windows, and are 

Florentine Houses 13 

reached by a flight of steps which go down till they 
disappear in awful blackness. If our courage fail 
us, and instead of venturing down, we remain in the 
street and call out to the shopman, whom we presume 
is inside, such a grimy, wild-looking figure answers our 
summons that we are brave indeed if we stand our 
ground, and do not turn and fly. 

Most of the great houses, of which we have been 
speaking, bear the proud title o^ Palazzo^ or palace, and 
are built round a square courtyard or garden, where cool 
water bubbles up out of a fountain in the centre and 
flowers and fruits grow luxuriantly. We get glimpses 
of these gardens from the street, when the outer doors 
are open, and they look so restful and shady that we 
wish we did not need to wait until we made the acquain- 
tance of the owners, but could walk in and sit down at 



As we walk along the streets of Florence, we see many 
people and many things that are very quaint and 
interesting. And perhaps what we notice first is neither 
a person nor a thing, but an animal — "Brother Mule," 
as St. Francis of Assisi would have called him. 

We meet him everywhere, coming in from the 
country drawing a queer, long-shaped little cart, filled 
with flagons of wine, or bottles of water, or bundles of 
hay. We hear him before we see him, for the tinkle 
of the bells on his harness wakens us up in the early 
morning ere it is daylight, as he passes our windows on 
his way to town before anyone but his master and he 

i^ Florence 

are astir. He has on his neck an oddly-shaped collar, 
with a crook of copper or brass rising from the middle 
of it, from which a bell is generally hung, and his 
harness is also set with bells and decorated with scarlet 
tassels. These bells are for the purpose of keeping off 
the " evil eye," for an old superstition still lingers in 
Italy that certain persons, especially if they have blue 
eyes, have the power to bring misfortune on those 
whom they dislike by simply looking at them. As a 
protection the peasants hang little amulets and bells on 
the harness of their horses and mules, and take great 
care to carve or paint an eye on some part of the collar, 
and generally this eye is painted blue. 

A lantern is almost always carried under these carts, 
and when it is needed it is lit, and fastened to the shaft 
to light the way of the little equipage. The master is 
very kind to his mule, for he always has a deep round 
basket made of rope under his chin, or round his nose 
rather, for his nose is imprisoned in it, almost as if it 
were a muzzle ; and this is full of hay, so that the 
animal can take a mouthful whenever he stands still for 
a moment. In summer he wears a net all over his body, 
hung with a border of tassels to keep off the flies, and 
sometimes, when it is very hot, he wears a hat. 

Then there is the water-melon man, who has a stall 
or barrow at nearly every corner when water-melons 
are in season, and very picturesque it looks. For water- 
melons are big and green and cool-looking, and he has 
a green earthenware basin beside them, full of water, 
in which he keeps a supply of fresh vine-leaves, and 
into which he throws the pennies which he receives, 
so that they may be clean for the next customer who 
needs change. Yet his stall is not all green, for water- 

In the Streets 15 

melons are rosy-red inside and dotted over with great 
black seeds. He knows that most of the men, and 
women, and boys, and girls who pass his stall, do not 
want to buy a whole melon, but only a slice to eat as 
they go along, so he has a large knife, like a kitchen 
chopper, with which he cuts one melon into round 
slices, which he hangs up on the framework of his stall, 
and he cuts another into thick wedges, which he arranges 
neatly on vine-leaves spread out on the table. 

He often finds the flies troublesome. They like 
water-melons as well as we do, so he either covers his 
fruit with a piece of thin gauze, or he fixes a number 
of strips of paper to the end of a stick, and lazily waves 
it to and fro to keep the troublesome creatures off. 

A little farther on we come to the man who sells 
refreshing drinks. His stall is not so picturesque as 
that which we have just passed, for it is covered with 
bottles filled with white and red and yellow mixtures — ■ 
not wine, but " syrups" and home-made liqueurs, which 
he mixes in tumblers for his customers with water out 
of a pail that stands under his stall. When the time 
of fresh lemons comes he brightens up, however, and 
festoons his stall with sprigs of lemon-trees, with fruit, 
ripe and unripe, upon them. Then anyone who likes 
can have a delicious drink of lemon-water, made on 
the spot. 

Here is a woman selling vegetables. Yet she has 
not a shop, and she has not a stall, and she does not 
carry a basket. She is sitting at her ease on a chair on 
the pavement, shelHng beans into her lap. How do 
you think she manages? She has had a number of 
hooks stuck into the wall, and there she has hung 
her baskets, so that they are out of the way of the 

1 6 Florence 

passers-by, and yet quite within reach if they arc 

If we cross the Ponte Vecchio, the famous old bridge 
of Florence, we are ahnost sure to find a walnut-seller 
sitting on the edge of the pavement near an old well. 
He does not sell walnuts as they are sold in an ordinary 
shop, all higgledy-piggledy, with their jackets on. No, 
he is an artist, and his tool is a wooden hammer, with 
which he lightly taps a walnut as it rests on the stone 
pavement. And, lo and behold ! though we would 
have broken the shell, he does not, but only splits the 
upper half neatly off, showing the curdled kernel within, 
and these kernels he piles up tastefully in a shallow 
basket lined with vine-leaves. 

There are also the men and women who sell flowers, 
and, as is natural in the '^ City of Flowers," they are to 
be met with everywhere. On the steps of the loggias, 
in the market-places, at the corners of the streets, 
everywhere they are waiting, their great baskets piled 
up with one kind of flower or another, according to the 
time of year. Snowdrops and primroses, golden cassia 
and heath, jasmine and primula in early spring ; a 
wealth of narcissus, Madonna lilies, violets, lily of the 
valley, hyacinths, and lilac at Easter ; then, for months, 
the fragrance of roses, and the autumn glow of chrys- 
anthemums, gladioli, and brilliant geraniums. They 
are very insistent salesfolk, following us along, offering 
their wares, and, if we are ladies, thrusting some especi- 
ally fragrant bouquet in our faces with a smile, and a 
flattering ^^ Bella SignoraJ' 

In winter the stalls and barrows of the water-melon 
and lemonade sellers give place to those of the buzarri 
or chestnut venders, for chestnuts, which grow in great 




P 1 


^.-^ ■■■* ■tl^^fc.w 




PUBUC -■ ' 


In the Streets 17 

profusion in the hilly parts of Italy, are very much 
used as an article of food by poor people. The buzarri 
has a little charcoal fire beside his stall, over which he 
roasts his chestnuts, and which sends out a warm, 
cheerful glow on cold, bleak, winter days. Here any 
passer-by may purchase a handful of broiling hot 
chestnuts, and carry them away with him to warm his 
fingers, and to eat as he goes along. 

Besides these stalls there are proper chestnut-shops, 
where chestnuts are cooked in many different ways — 
boiled, roasted, or ground into meal and baked into 
cakes, one variety of which, castignaccio, is baked on a 
round copper tray which retains the heat of the oven 
so long that quantities of these cakes are carried on 
their metal platters to the various bridges, and there 
cut into sHces and sold hot to the passers-by. 

As we go through the streets it is curious to read 
their names and learn what they mean, but in order to 
do so we must either study Italian for ourselves or 
know someone who can translate the names for us. 

Here is the Street of the Lily, and the Street of the 
Sundial, the Street of the Almond, and the Street of 
the Lamb, the Street of the Dyers, and the Street of 
the Men from the Mountains. In them we may 
meet a team of patient white oxen, magnificent, sleek, 
well-fed creatures, with red ribbons bound round their 
foreheads and heavy wooden yokes resting on their 
shoulders, bringing a waggon-load of wine-flagons from 
some farm at Fiesole or San Miniato to some wine- 
merchant in the city, for oxen are almost always used 
for agricultural work in Northern Italy. 

Among the crowd we are sure to see some monks 
in their distinctive habits, which look strange to our 

FL. 3 

1 8 Florence 

English eyes, and are quite different from the long 
black soutanes of the ordinary parish priests. 

Here comes a man clad in a long, coarse, loose brown 
frock, with a peaked hood hanging down his back, a 
white girdle made of cord twisted round his waist, and 
sandals on his feet. He is a Franciscan Brother, a 
follower of St. Francis, the ''Little Poor Man of Assisi," 
who lived seven hundred years ago, who was so fond 
of beasts and birds, who carried out literally our Lord's 
injunction to "sell all that he had and give to the 
poor," and who, by his preaching, wrought for a time 
a wonderful revival in the Church of his day. 

Soon we meet another monk, who is dressed quite 
differently, in a white gown with a black, scarf-like 
garment over it, hanging down in front and behind. 
That is a Dominican friar, a follower of St. Dominic, 
who was also a great preacher and reformer. But he 
represented the law of Moses by his teaching every- 
thing that was stern and dark in religion, while St. Francis 
represented everything that was bright, and sunny, and 

If we were to visit a quaint little monastery on the 
outskirts of Florence, we should see a third Order of 
monks, who, however, do not go much abroad. I 
mean the Carthusians, the monks who lived, until the 
French Government turned them out, at the Grande 
Chartreuse, near Grenoble in Savoy. They are an 
Order which is dying out, and the members are mostly 
old men, with shaven heads, grey beards, and brow^i, 
weather-beaten faces, for they work a great deal out of 
doors. Their dress is the most picturesque of all, being 
entirely of white, with a hood shaped like that of the 
Franciscans, white stockings, and thick, heavy black shoes. 

Humble Craftsmen 19 

No one need be at a loss to know the correct time 
in Florence, for at twelve o'clock a cannon goes off, 
just as a cannon goes off at Edinburgh Castle at one. 
Perhaps someone will say in a joke, when they hear 
this, " Do you mean twelve o'clock at night, or twelve 
o'clock in the forenoon ?" Ah ! There is only one 
twelve o'clock in Florence, and that is at midday, for, 
instead of beginning the simple numerals over again as 
we do, the Florentines count thirteen o'clock, fourteen 
o'clock, and so on to twenty-four o'clock, which is 
rather confusing to a foreigner. 



It is always interesting to watch how things are made, 
but it is not always easy to do so. If we go into some 
of the older streets in Florence, however, we can see the 
craftsmen at their work, and as we watch them, we 
cannot help thinking of the bygone days, when, in little 
workshops, no bigger than those we are visiting, many 
a humble lad, whose name stands out among the great 
artists of the world, served his apprenticeship to some 
goldsmith skilled in modelling in silver or bronze, and 
thus learned the first rudiments of his Art, whether the 
Art developed into painting, or sculpture, or architec- 
ture. For if we read the stories of the great Italian 
'^ Masters," Giotto, Brunelleschi, Donatello, Botticelli, 
Ghiberti, Leonardo da Vinci, or Michael Angelo, we 
find that almost every one of them began his career in 
the tiny workshop of a goldsmith. 

But to return to the Florence of to-day. Let us 

20 Florence 

cross one of the bridges to the southern side of the 
Arno, and go along one of the streets that run parallel to 
the river, and here we find little open shops, almost like 
sheds, in the doorways of which, if you can call an open 
space a doorway, the shopman is busy at his trade, and 
yet is quite near enough for his neighbour over the way 
to carry on a conversation with him. It is all so nice, 
and open, and friendly, that it makes one feel that all 
these workers belong to one large family. 

Here is a blacksmith, with a little anvil in front of 
him, which literally stands on the pavement ; and 
between the blows of his hammer he can exchange 
jokes with the worker in metals next door, who is 
busily engaged beating into shape one of these great 
copper water-jugs which we admire so much. 

Here is a baker, baking curious little circular cakes, 
like rings, which are a very old institution in Florence, 
and laying them on what looks like a huge metal spade, 
with a long handle, with which he slips them into an 
oven, yawning like a black cavern at the back of his 
shop, with a glowing fire of charcoal beneath it. Across 
the street is a confectioner, with a pile of crisp dough- 
nuts on a tray, stirring a pot of creamy-looking liquid 
over a tiny charcoal stove. He stands on one side 
of it, and we can stand on the other, and watch the 
delicious frothy stuff beginning to boil. 

Near by is a tinsmith, who, with the help of a little 
'prentice lad, is converting tins, which have already been 
used for Nestle's milk, or canned fruits, into quaint 
little coffee-pots, with shallow lips and black wooden 
handles. His requirements are very simple, tor he has 
only a basin of smouldering charcoal beside him, stand- 
ing above a can of water in case it sets anything on fire, 

Humble Craftsmen 21 

and when he wishes to heat his soldering iron, his little 
assistant takes an old pair of bellows, which are lying at 
his feet, and blows the charcoal into a glow. 

Next we come to a carpenter, busy among his 
shavings, and a cobbler sitting with his last, stitching 
away, yet having eyes for everything that is going on 
around him. 

As we come near the end of the old bridge, we find 
another set of craftsmen whose work needs, perhaps, a 
little more skill. I mean the goldsmiths and jewellers, 
and the workers in leather and vellum. The things that 
they make are very beautiful, and as we look at them 
we cannot help wondering if any of the workmen are 
descended from the craftsmen we have been talking of, 
who lived in the Middle Ages. Their shops are a little 
superior to the others, as befits the value of their goods, 
but the doors stand open, and through the narrow front 
room one can see a big light workshop beyond, stretching 
back to the river over which its windows look, where as 
many as seven or eight assistants and apprentices, clad 
in linen overalls, are attending to the various processes. 

Here is the shop of a worker in precious metals, in 
gold and silver, which he seems to use principally for 
making the things that are necessary for the Services of 
the Church — alms-dishes, and crosses, and beautifully 
gilt and embossed vessels for the Holy Communion. 

Next door is one of the many shops for setting 
precious stones and making jewellery. Many artistic 
and beautiful ornaments can be bought here, especially 
jewellery set with turquoises. 

Then comes the worker in leather, and vellum, which, 
as you know, is the skin of calves, dressed in a special 
way, so that it remains white and almost transparent. 

2 2 Florence 

and yet is quite tough and strong. We can buy all 
sorts of useful things here, although the work on them 
is so fine that they are rather expensive — covers for 
books, card-cases, handbags of all shapes and sizes, and 
picture-frames. The leather work is beautifully gildt^d, 
the Florentine lily, which is almost exactly the same as 
the French fleur-de-lys, being a common design, while 
different devices are printed on the vellum in bright 
colours, blue and green, purple and red, and finely 
embellished with gold, so that they resemble the 
illuminations that we find in very ancient manuscripts. 

When we are admiring the work of the Florentine 
craftsmen, we must not forget that of the craftswomen, 
for the women and girls of Florence make the most 
wonderful embroidery, an art which they have learned 
from the nuns, and which they practise at odd moments 
when their housework is done. As we pass along the 
streets, we can see them sitting on their doorsteps in the 
evenings, chatting to one another, and embroidering 
with skilful fingers blouses or other dainty garments. 

A great deal has been done of late years to encourage 
work of this kind by a society known as the " Industrie 
Femminaky' or Woman's Industries, which has tor its 
aim the revival of all sorts of old work and needlecraft, 
and which gives both training and employment to 
women and girls, in all parts of Italy, who show aptitude 
for learning fine embroidery. 

Indeed, I think the shops where this embroidery is sold 
are quite as fascinating as those of the jewellers or 

The Markets 23 



There are three markets held in Florence, in different 
parts of the city. There is the Mercato Centrale, out- 
side the great Church of San Lorenzo, not very far 
from the Central Station. This is what we might call 
a general market, and if we go there we shall find one 
stall where we can pick up all sorts of quaintly-shaped 
bits of pottery, for a few soldi^' each, while at another 
cheap embroideries will be displayed, at another, haber- 
dashery, and so on. Indeed, this market is so like 
the ordinary cheap markets at home that it is not 
particularly interesting. 

Then there is the Mercato Nuovo, or New Market, 
which is situated in the heart of the city. This is held 
in a handsome loggia, which was built for one of the 
Medici in 1547. Long years ago, when Florence was 
famed for her silk, this used to be the silk-market, and 
dealers of precious stones brought their wares here also. 

But to-day we find most of the stalls piled up with 
straw hats — " Leghorn hats," as we call them. For 
straw-plaiting and hat-making is one of the principal 
industries of the villages which lie on the outskirts of 
the city. You have often heard your mother ask for a 
hat of " Tuscan straw," have you not, when she wanted 
to buy one of good quality ? Well, here are plenty of 
such hats. For is not Florence the capital of Tuscany, 
and is not the straw grown on the good red soil, not 
many miles away? It is washed, and bleached, and cut 
into lengths, which are sold in bundles to the country- 

* Half-pence. 

24 Florence 

women, who divide it between themselves and their 
daughters, for even tiny children learn to employ their 
leisure time in this way. 

In any country village we may see them, or even at 
odd times in the streets of Florence itself, going along 
with a coil of plaited straw and a bundle of lengths of 
straw tucked under the same arm, their fingers busy 
plaiting as they go. When so many yards of straw are 
plaited, they take the coil to a warehouse or factory, 
and sell it to the merchant, who either sells it again to a 
milliner, or converts it into a straw hat in his own 
workrooms. You all know how beautifully fine and 
soft and flexible these Leghorn hats are. They are 
large and shady, yet they can be rolled up tightly and 
packed in a travelling trunk, and they will come out 
at the end of a long journey as fresh as ever. 

Besides the straw hats, lovely lace is sold in the 
Mercato Nuovo, and twice a week a flower-market is 
held here, which is a very pretty sight, as the flowers are 
piled up against the grey stone pillars of the old loggia. 

Before we leave, we must look at a curious fountain 
at one side of the building. It is formed by the figure 
of a boar, which is rising on its front legs, and out of 
whose jaws a stream of pure water is flowing. Little 
children stand on tiptoe, and drink as they pass. " // 
Porcellino^' the Little Pig, they call it lovingly, for has 
it not given fresh, cold water many times, not only to 
them, but to their parents, and grandparents, and 
great-grandparents, before them? 

But I think the most interesting market of all is that 
of San Ambrogio, which is held in a square near the 
city wall, not far from the Church of Santa Croce. 
This is the market to which all the country-folk bring 




The Markets 25 

their butter and eggs, their poultry, their home-made 
cheeses, their flowers and vegetables. They come into 
the city in the early morning, with their little donkey- 
carts laden with country produce. Then they fasten 
the patient donkeys to a wall, and leave them there, 
munching their hay, while they carry whatever they 
have to sell, in baskets to the adjoining square. 

Curiously, it is generally the men who come to 
market, not the women, as is so common in English 
country towns. 

It is a pretty sight to come here in the morning, 
about seven or eight o'clock, and see the piles of 
brightly-coloured vegetables and fruit, and the fat 
chickens — looking, alas ! poor little things, very 
frightened and unhappy, as if they knew the fate that 
was in store for them — and watch the careful house- 
keepers, who have come here to cater for their house- 
holds, bargaining with the country-folk over the prices. 



Let us go, one evening, when the heat of the day is 
over, and see the Arno and its bridges. The river 
divides Florence into two rather unequal parts, for on 
one side lies the greater portion of the city, which is 
quite flat and stretches away to the base of the Hill of 
Fiesole, while on the other the houses are built on a 
hillside studded with myrtles and dark cypress-trees, 
which stand out black and sombre in the rays of the 
setting sun. Close to the Arno runs a very handsome 
broad street or quay, known as the Lung Arno, bordered 
with old fpalaces and high, massive dwelling-houses, 
FL. 4 

26 Florence 

and in some parts of the street these houses have loggias 
running along the lower part of the building, which are 
nice and cool to walk in, and in which are a number of 
tiny shops, filled with all kinds of jewellery, pictures, 
and lace. 

About the middle of the Lung Arno, there is 
one of the most picturesque bits of building that one 
can see anywhere. This is the Ponte Vecchio, or Old 
Bridge, which represents the most ancient bridge in 
Florence. I mean by this that a bridge has stood here 
from very early times, although it has been once or twice 
rebuilt. The present stone structure was erected in 
1345, so it Is more than five hundred years old. At 
first, when you look at it, you almost wonder what it is 
meant for, for it is only the stone piers that support it, 
and the arches over the water, that tell you that it is a 
bridge at all. Looking at it from the banks of the river, 
it seems a mass of tiny houses, piled like bird-cages one 
above the other, while, rising even higher than thev do, 
is a covered stone gallery, built in quite a regular way. 

When we are on the bridge, it is simply like a street 
of little shops, all filled with jewellery and works of Art, 
some of which are very beautiful, some quite tawdry. 
Both above and below this curious old bridge, on the 
left bank of the Arno, there is no broad street, as there 
is elsewhere, only the backs of quaint, high, old-fashioned 
houses, the walls of which go straight down into the 
river, and are one mass of queer gables, and little pro- 
jecting windows, and hanging gardens, and uneven roofs, 
showing us clearly by their quaint architecture that they 
were built in medieval times. In fact, it is absolutely 
impossible to describe them, or to tell how picturesque 
they are, with their clear tints of cream-coloured wall, 

The Arno and its Bridges 27 

and dull red tiles, rising against the deep blue of an 
Italian sky. 

As we walk slowly over the old bridge, let us think 
of its history. A bndge is said to have been built here 
in the time of the Romans. We know that one existed 
as early as the days of Dante, though at that time it had 
not its border of tiny shops. Then came the building 
of the two great Palaces on either side of the river, the 
Palace of the Uffizi, and the Pitri Palace, which both 
belonged to the Medici, who wanted a secret, or, at 
least, covered passage between the two residences, and 
so the gallery over the bridge was erected for the use 
of the fine ladies and gentlemen of the Court, 

Then the little shops were built, and given to the 
Guild of Goldsmiths by G^simo di Medici, he who did 
so much for his country, and ever since, they have been 
inhabited by workers in precious metals. There are 
two stories connected with the bridge which you might 
like to hear before we leave it. One is quite true — 
of the other you must judge for yourselves. 

I will tell the true story first. It is like a fairy-tale. 
One day when the great Duke Cosimo was making his 
lordly way across the Ponte Vecchio, his eye chanced to 
fall on a very pretty girl named Camilla Martelli, who 
was the daughter of one of the goldsmiths li\'ing in one 
of the little houses overhanging the river. Perhaps 
the girl was sitting on a stool at the doorway of her 
father's shop, ready to sers'e any customer who might 
happen to call ; perhaps she was coming home from 
market with her basket of fruit and v^etables over her 
arm. We do not know, but at all events she looked so 
beautiful that the Grand Duke fell in love with her, and 
married her, and changed her into a Grand Duchess. 

2 8 Florence 

She was very unhappy afterwards, poor thing, for 
Cosimo became tired of her, and married someone else, 
as Grand Dukes were allowed to do in those lawless 
days, and she was shut up in a convent, where she was 
so rude to the nuns that they all hated her. But that 
part of her life does not belong to the history of the 
Ponte Vecchio. 

The other story is that the old bridge is supposed to 
be haunted by a ghostly watchman, who takes the form 
of a beggar. If anyone is bold enough to cross the 
bridge at midnight, they see him leaning over the wall, 
but he never speaks to them, and if they ask him a 
question, he only laughs. But the goldsmiths who are 
comfortably in bed in their quaint little rooms smile to 
themselves when they hear the laugh (or at least they 
did so in the Middle Ages), and turn over, and go to 
sleep again. For by that token they know that their 
shops are safe, and that the watchman is watching. 

The next bridge that we come to, lower down the 
river, is the Ponte S. Trinita, or the Bridge of the Holy 
Trinity. It is by the corner of this bridge that Dante 
is represented as standing, when he saw his " Sweet 
Lady " Beatrice, whom he loved so well, pass, '' clad in 
white robes between two gentle ladies older than she," 
and where she '* saluted him so graciously " that he 
seemed to see the " Heights of All Blessedness." 

You all know the picture of the scene ; you see it 
everywhere — the great poet standing in the corner of 
the bridge, in his dark gown, and the fair young girl 
passing along the quay with her friends. 

Above the Ponte Vecchio is the Ponte alle Grazie, 
which used to be very quaint, but was spoilt when a 
number of little cells which stood on it, and which 

The Arno and its Bridges 29 

formed the home of a community of nuns, were pulled 
down, some forty years ago. 

These nuns wanted to live a stricter life than they 
lived in their convents, so they retired to these little 
cells, where they could only see the brown waters of the 
Arno rolling beneath them. 

The only other bridge which we need visit is that 
which stands below the Ponte S. Trinita, the Ponte 
Alia Carraja, which got its name from the carri or carts 
which used to cross it, bringing loads of wool from 
the country farms to woollen mills in the city. Here, 
also, there is a curious story to be told. It is said 
that once upon a time an old man lived at the end of 
the bridge who was such a miser that he earned for 
himself a name which meant " Fohd of Money," and 
who was so hard-hearted that his neighbours said he 
must be under the power of the Evil One. It was 
known that he had saved a large sum, and great was the 
disappointment of his poor relations, of whom he had 
many, when at his death not a farthing could be found. 

" The devil had taken it, that was evident," so people 
said. And it really seemed as if it were true. For 
soon afterwards, a strange thing began to happen. 
Every night as the clock struck twelve a goat ran on 
to the bridge at one end ; but, no matter how closely 
people watched it, they could never see it leave the 
bridge at the other. 

This was very mysterious, and a party of young men 
set out one night to hunt the goat, and run it to earth. 
They concealed themselves until the animal set foot on 
the bridge ; then they followed it, certain of their prey. 
But halfway over it disappeared, and no one could tell 
where it had gone. The young men were puzzled, and 

30 Florence 

went to their different homes, saying that the matter 
was beyond their understanding, and thought no more 
of the matter, all except one, who turned the curious 
incident over and over in his mind until he came to the 
conclusion that the goat must be an unquiet spirit, who 
was condemned to linger about the place where it had 
committed some sin. 

So next day he took a spade, and went and digged at 
the base of the pillar near which the animal had dis- 
appeared. And he soon found all the miser's gold, 
hidden under a flat stone. The old man had buried it 
there, in case his relatives should obtain possession of it 
before he died. 

The young man gathered it all up, and divided it 
among its rightful owners, and from that time the goat 
disappeared — the uneasy spirit of the miser was '' laid." 

These are old-time stories, but the bridges about 
which they are told are still standing, and as we look at 
them we are linked to the bygone days when people 
believed such things, and drew morals from them about 
the goodness of virtue, and the wickedness of vice. 

We do not expect to see the shadowy watchman or 
the hunted goat now, but we like to linger on the broad 
quays, and watch the numberless little boats, which have 
gaily painted helms, being rowed, or '' punted," up and 
down the river, for in summer, when the Arno is low, 
the boatmen use poles instead of oars, and propel their 
little crafts in this way. When they want to moor them 
they thrust the poles down into the bed of the river. 

These boats look very picturesque moored like this 
in the evening, when their owners employ themselves in 
fishing with very quaint nets. These nets are simply 
fastened to the four ends of two bamboos, crossed and 

The Arno and its Bridges 31 

tied together in the centre, so that the net forms a 
kind of big shallow basket, and the crossed bamboos 
the handle. This is let down into the river by another 
bamboo, and can be drawn up and down at the fisher- 
man's pleasure. These fishermen are a very interesting 
race of men, for they follow traditions of their craft 
which have been handed down to them from bygone 
centuries, and the fashion of their boats and their nets 
never change. Neither do the strange fishing-baskets 
which they wear slung to their waists, into which they put 
the small fishes which they catch, and which they carry 
with them when, their labours over, they go through 
the poorer streets of the city, hawking their wares. 

These fishing-baskets are not baskets at all, but great 
gourds, which the fishermen grow in their tiny gardens 
and mould into the shape which they require by resting 
the fruit on a flat board while it is growing, which 
makes it flat at the bottom, and tying a tight bandage 
round it near its top, so as to restrict it and form a 
"neck," while at the same time it causes it to swell 
out into a nice fat shape in the middle. When the 
gourd is fully formed it is cut from its stalk, and 
placed in the cottage window to ripen and harden. 
Then a little hot pitch is poured into it, and the 
fisherman turns it round and round in his hands until 
the whole of the inside is coated with the liquid, which 
gradually hardens, and renders the quaint and useful 
vessel watertight. 

But fishing is not the only occupation of these men, 
for all of them are renainoli^ or sand- collectors, 
as well. 

When the waters of the Arno are brown and tawny, 
as they very often are after a storm, it is a sign that 

32 Florence 

they are carrying along with them a great deal of sand 
which has been washed down from the mountains. 
When the river is clear again the renainolo knows that 
this sand has sunk to the bottom. 

Then he puts out in his boat, and, mooring over the 
place where experience teaches him that the sand has 
settled, shovels it up into his tiny craft by means ot his 
pala^ or long pole with a scoop at the end of it. 
When his boat is full he rows to the side of the river, 
where another set of men are waiting to pass the sand 
through a sieve to keep back stones, etc., and when it 
is thus sifted it is sold to masons for building purposes. 

If we walk along the banks of the river in the morn- 
ing we can watch the washerwomen, who bring their 
baskets of clothes to the various flights of stone steps 
which run down from the quays to the river for the 
convenience of the fishermen, and, kneeling there, pro- 
ceed to wash them in the cool running water, spreading 
them on the stones and scrubbing them with brushes 
to remove the dirt, then hanging them up to dry in the 
bright sunshine. 



Perhaps some day, as we are walking along the streets, 
we may meet a very curious and weird procession. 
Indeed, if you were alone when you met it, and no one 
else were in sight, you might be frightened. 

For you would see, first of all, four men, dressed all 
in black, carrying or wheeling a long black stretcher, 
covered by a framework of black oil-cloth. These men 
would be followed by six or eight other figures, walk- 

PAGES 18 a. 30. 

1. Kr;iiiciM.aii Minor. 2. DDmitiicaii. 3. Carthusian. 
4. Poor Clare. 5. Sister of Charity of S. Vincent de Paul. 

Fyom ^'ILindbod to Chhtim .wd Ro;„," A, M. ,V. R. T, 

,/ //"/«,• M.tll.ion ( 

A Strange Procession 33 

ing two and two, and wearing long, loose, black cloaks 
down to their heels, and having black peaked hoods 
drawn over their heads and faces, so that nothing could 
be seen of the wearers but their eyes, and it would be 
difficult to say whether they were men or women. 

And yet, when you know who these figures are, 
instead of being frightened, you will look at them 
with the greatest interest and respect. For these 
are the Brethren of the Misericordia, a society which 
has existed for more than six hundred years, whose 
members are pledged to go at any hour of the day or 
night to succour any sick person who is in need of 
help ; to give them " first aid," as we would call it, in 
their homes ; to carry them, if necessarv, to a hospital ; 
or if, when they reach the house, they find that the 
person is dead, to care for the body, and afterwards, if the 
friends desire it, to carry it to their own or some other 
chapel for a funeral service ; then, if need be, to bury it. 

They wear their black hoods in order that they may 
not be recognized, and obtain " the praise of men " as 
a reward for their charitable work, and also that the 
friends of those whom they have helped may not be able 
to seek them out afterwards and oScr them any present. 

The way in which the Society of the Miscricordia 
was founded is very interesting. In the year 1240 a 
poor street porter named Pietro Borsi was grieved to 
notice that his companions spent their leisure time in 
quarrelling and swearing. Half in joke, Pietro per- 
suaded them to use their energies in another, and more 
useful way. He suggested that every time one of 
them uttered a bhsphemous word he should pay a fine 
into a common fund, which should be used to buy 
litters, and that each of them, in turn, should lend a 

FL. 5 

34 Florence 

hand once a day to carry some sick or wounded person 
— for there were plenty of street frays in Florence at 
that time — to a place of comfort and safety. 

So the "Guild of the Men of the Merciful Hearts " 
was started, and from this humble beginning it has 
grown into a great society. Anyone who wishes to do 
so may belong to it — labouring men, and men of leisure, 
busy shop-keepers, and Grand Dukes. If we go into 
the Piazza del Duomo we can see its headquarters, 
just opposite the south side of the Campanile. Here 
we are shown the numberless little cupboards lining the 
walls, in which the cloaks of the Brethren are kept, each 
with a card with the name of the owner fastened inside. 
Some of these cards bear very humble names, some 
have coronets marked upon them, one bears the name 
of the King. Here are the hand-litters, and litters on 
wheels, and — for the Society does not scorn to be up-to- 
date in all that concerns its usefulness — here are splints, 
antiseptics, and a modern two-horse ambulance. 

On a shelf stands the ballot-box, like a miniature old- 
fashioned barrel churn, in which the members' names 
are balloted, in order to make out lists as to who shall 
be on duty during the different hours of the days and 

When a case of sickness was reported at the " Resi- 
dence," as this central house is called, a signal used to 
be given from the top of Giotto's Campanile, and, at the 
sound, each of the members who were on duty for the 
day was bound to leave his work, whatever it was, to 
lay down his knife and fork even, if he were at a meal, 
and go without delay to the Residence, where he 
donned his sombre garments, and, after joining in the 
short prayer, " Give us, Lord, Charity, Humility, and 

A Strange Procession 35 

Courage," helped to shoulder the stretcher, and set out 
with his companions on their errand of mercy. 

Nowadays the Society is worked on a shghtly 
different principle. A few officials are paid, and are 
always on duty, while the Brethren take it in turn to 
be in attendance at the Residence for a few hours at a 
time in case they are wanted. This is easily done, for 
the Society comprises many members, so that the obliga- 
tions do not press heavily on any. 

There is another society in Florence which has 
existed for a very long time, and which also had a very 
humble beginning. I mean the " Buonomini di San 
Martino," or " The Good Men of St. Martin." 

The founder of this society was not a street porter, 
but the Prior of the Convent of San Marco, and a friend 
of Fra Angelico, who afterwards became Archbishop of 
Florence, and who was one of the most simple-minded 
and saintly of men. His name was Antonino, and, it 
we care to go and look at his bust in the cell which he 
occupied in the Convent of San Marco, or at his statue, 
which fills one of the niches on the outside of the 
Uffizi Palace, we can read his character in his face as 
he looks down at us with a wise, shrewd, and kindly 
smile, as if, even yet, he were taking a keen interest in 
the doings of the strangers who have come to visit his 
Archiepiscopal city. 

It was in the days when one great man and his 
followers were in power for a few months or a few years, 
then fell before some enemy who thought himself a 
greater man, and had a larger following ; when factions 
were rife, and a family might be rich to-day and poor 

This state of things fell heavily on gently-nurtured 




people, especially on women and children who had 
been brought up in luxury, and who, when poverty 
came, would rather starve in silence than beg. And the 
worst of it was that no one knew, no one cared. In 
fact, no one took the trouble to think about it at all, 
save one man. Prior Antonino of San Marco. He 
turned the matter over and over in his kindly mind, 
and at last he sent for twelve of the best men he knew, 
most of them rich tradesmen of the Guilds which had 
done so much for Florence, and he talked to them 
about the misery which well-born women and delicate 
little children had to endure when the party to which 
their fathers and husbands belonged fell into disgrace, 
and asked them to succour these poor people. His 
appeal was successful. The twelve men, touched by 
what he said, instantly offered themselves as his assistants 
to search out such cases and relieve them. 

But where was the money to come from ? Ah ! if the 
people of Florence were fighters in those days, they 
were also rich, and charitable when a need was laid be- 
fore them ; and they are so still. 

Let us go to a little square in the centre of the town, 
near the Duomo, the Piazza San Martino, at the corner 
of which is the tiniest of tiny churches, dedicated to 
the Soldier Saint. Look at this old almsbox let into 
the wall, and translate, if you can, the inscriptions above 
and below it. This is the very almsbox which these 
twelve men, with Prior Antonino at their head, set up 
at once to receive contributions for their work. They 
chose this little church as their headquarters, probably 
because of the story of how its Patron Saint shared his 
cloak with a beggar, and thus it was that they obtained 
their name. 

How Children are Cared For 37 

It was not the name that Prior Antonino chose for 
them, however, that was very pathetic and very telling, 
and it has its place still in the lower inscription, under 
the almsbox. Let us read it — '' The Providers for the 
Shamefaced Poor." 

It all seems connected with bygone days, does it not ? 
But if we go at certain times into the little church, we 
will find a kind-faced official sitting in a tiny vestry, 
where there is a deep shelf piled up, not with priests' 
robes and things for the Church, but with loaves of 
bread ; and, if you watch long enough, you will see a 
stream of shabbily-dressed people come up in ones and 
twos, and present tickets, and carry away loaves instead. 

The Good Men of San Martino still provide for the 
Shamefaced Poor. 



If we leave the Cathedral Square, and pass along the 
street called the Via de' Servi, we find ourselves in 
another square, the Piazza della S. Annunziata, and 
here we will see a long building with a loggia in front, 
which is reached by a flight of broad steps, and over 
which there are a number of what look like enormous 
blue china plates set in the wall, each one with the 
figure of the dearest little swaddled bambino, or baby, 
raised upon it, in what is known as bas-relief. 

You will recognize them at once as something rather 
special, for, if you have been looking in the shop-win- 
dows, you will have seen dozens ot copies ot them, on 
post-cards, or plaques, or china ornaments. 

This building is the Spedale degli Innocenti, or 



Foundling Hospital, but before we enter it I must tell 
you something about the hamhinos over the loggia. 
They are the work of an artist whose name was Andrea 
della Robbia, and the work which he and his uncle 
Luca did is unique — that is, there is nothing else like it. 
Luca began his life, as so many of his brother artists 
did, in a goldsmith's shop, but instead of spending his 
time in making statues in marble and bronze, he turned 
his attention to terra-cotta, and modelled sweet little 
babies* heads in that material. 

Then he made up his mind that he would find out 
the way to make a " glaze," or hard, shiny surface, to his 
terra-cotta, which would stand both wind and rain, and 
should, as he said, " make works of clay almost eternal." 
For he lived in an age when artists were plentiful, and 
there were numbers of rich men who desired to have 
pictures and frescoes on the walls of their houses, where 
it was too damp, or too exposed, for pictures and frescoes 
to be. And Luca thought that if he could discover 
such a glaze, then he could produce figures in bas- 
relief to fill these vacant places. He was a mere boy 
when he took this idea into his head, but he worked on 
doggedly and patiently, day and night, often standing 
in the cold workshop till his feet were nearly frozen, 
and at last he succeeded in producing this curious glazed 
porcelain in which so many of his works are executed. 

The fame of them spread abroad, orders flowed in 
from all over Italy and all over Europe, and Luca had 
to get his brothers, and a nephew, Andrea, to come and 
help him. But he kept the secret that he had dis- 
covered in the family. No one else knew how to 
produce the glaze, and although Andrea della Robbia 
taught it to his sons, they had not inherited the family 

How Children are Cared For 39 

talent, and made little use of their knowledge, and so the 
hard-won, newly-discovered art was forgotten and lost. 

The Hospital has existed for more than four hundred 
years, and it receives all the poor little babies who have 
no one rightly to look after them, and whose mothers 
are quite willing to give them up so long as they are 
not asked to take any further interest in them. It is 
very sad to think that there are such mothers, but it is 
far better for the babies to be brought up carefully, and 
healthily, as they arc, and taught to work, than to be 
left to grow into girlhood and boyhood " anyhow." 

It is in the charge of the Sisters of an Order known 
as the Order of St. Vincent de Paul, and very kind and 
capable women they look in their blue linen gowns, and 
aprons, and great white caps — quite fit to " mother " the 
crowds of tiny infants who compose their large family. 

When a baby is received, its full name and address is 
given, and also particulars about its parents, but the 
Sisters only enter these in a book, so that the child, 
when it grows older, can find out, if it will, to whom it 

While it is in the Hospital it wears a little medal, 
with a letter and a number stamped upon it, by which 
it can be identified. This sounds like the sternest kind 
of poor-house, does it not ? But, indeed, it is not so. 
No babies could be better looked after. Each one has 
its tiny crib, like an iron clothes-basket, lined with 
spotless white, and swung from an iron hook. And 
there are numbers of pleasant-looking nurses, dressed 
in clean white overalls, who attend to their wants under 
the eyes of the Sisters. 

No " rich " baby could have more care in all that 
regards health. Here are racks filled with bottles 

40 Florence 

of milk, hermetically sealed so that no germs can reach 
it. Here are scales for weighing the tiny mites, with a 
nice soft pillow resting on them, so that they may not 
catch cold. 

Here is the room, with an even temperature, in 
which they are washed on a big table, with taps for hot 
and cold water in the centre of it, and a soft covering, 
like a down quilt, with another covering of oil-skin 
above it, where the babies can lie and kick during the 

If they are quite strong they are sent out into the 
country when they are a few weeks old, and boarded 
with some kindly country-woman, who brings them up 
with her own children till they are old enough to begin 
to work. Then the boys often go to be soldiers, or 
they may remain with their foster-parents and work on 
the land, while the girls either do the same, or go to 

There is another very old and useful institution 
for looking after poor children in Florence. This is 
the Bigallo, the ancient loggia of which forms a quaint 
corner in the Piazza del Duomo. 

Long, long ago, this house was the headquarters of 
a Society for the Protection of Orphans, but it fell into 
disuse, and the funds were used, 1 am sorry to say, for 
searching out, not fatherless boys and girls, but heretics, 
and then persecuting them. So that, in the days of 
San Antonino, of whom we have read as founding the 
" Society of the Providers for the Shamefaced Poor," 
the Bigallo was a place to be dreaded. 

But when Antonino became Archbishop, he turned 
the Charity back to its original intention, and per- 
suaded the officials, who were known as " Captains," to 

^' )RK 



where the Babies are Baptized 41 

seek out the poor and destitute, instead of persecuting 
their fellow-Christians. 

So, ever since, the institution has taken charge of the 
orphan children of respectable parents, or of widows 
who cannot support their families, and it educates and 
trains them, and sets them up in trades, or sends them 
out to suitable service, when they are old enough to go. 



Until quite recently Italian babies were dressed in a 
very curious way — indeed, many of them wear the dress, 
if dress it can be called, still, especially in the country. 
They were " swaddled " — that is, a long strip of linen 
was rolled round and round their bodies, until they 
were as stiff as little mummies. Then they were laid 
on a pillow which their nurse or mother carried in her 
arms. We have seen that Andrea della Robbia's bam- 
binos^ on the front of the Foundling Hospital, are 
swaddled in this manner. 

It was believed that this way of dressing infants 
made their little backs straight, and their limbs strong, 
but nowadays we know better, and the custom is 
dying out. 

When they are three days old the babies are taken, 
if possible, to church to be baptized, and in Florence 
there is only one place where this ceremony is per- 
formed, so that all the Florentine babies, for the last 
seven hundred years at least, have been baptized on 
the same spot, if not at the same font. 

This church is known as the " Baptistery," and it is 

FL. 6 

42 Florence 

one of the three buildings which make the Piazza del 
Duomo so famous. 

It hardly looks like a church outside, for it is a round, 
or, rather, an octagonal building — that is, as you know, 
a building with eight sides, and it has a very plain 
octagonal dome. It has three doors, two exactly 
opposite each other, on the north and the south, and 
another on the east, which, however, is always closed, 
being just behind the altar. These doors are very 
beautiful, and have a story which will require a chapter 
to themselves. 

The Baptistery is one of the oldest buildings in 
Florence, for before it was a Christian church it is 
supposed to have been a heathen temple, dedicated to 
Mars. Then it was turned into a church, and dedicated 
to St. John the Baptist, and served as the Cathedral. 

It was a very plain little building in those days, with 
walls of flint, and it stood in the middle of a church- 
yard ; but when Arnolfo, about whom we w^ill read 
presently, came in the thirteenth century, and began to 
erect all his new buildings, he thought that the plain 
little grey Cathedral might be made more beautiful, so 
he encased it in marble, so that it should look as fair 
and brilliant as the magnificent new Church of St. Mary 
of the Flowers, which was rising beside it, commonly 
called the Duomo, which would in time take its place 
as the Cathedral Church of Florence, but which would 
never take from it its unique privilege of being the 
building in which all the little children born in the city 
are received into Christ's flock, and enrolled under His 

It is curiously dark inside, for the windows are very 
narrow, and are high up in the walls, so that most of 

where the Babies are Baptized 43 

the light comes in through the north and south doors, 
which are always open. 

Great marble pillars stand round the walls, while the 
space under the dome is quite clear. The interior of 
the dome itself is covered with beautiful mosaic work, 
representing our Lord showing His pierced hands, 
while all ranks of creatures — Cherubim, Seraphim, 
Angels, men, and even demons (who look very like 
the gnomes of our northern fairy tales), worship 
before Him. 

It is very cool and quiet, and we are glad to come 
here out of the blazing sunshine of the Piazza, and sit 
down on one of the benches, and look at the marble 
font, standing in an enclosed space to the left of the 
altar, and think of the hundreds of thousands of little 
children who have been baptized here, and the different 
ways they travelled, and the different lives they led. 
Some of them were rich, some poor ; the majority of 
them absolutely unknown to us ; a few whose names 
and work we know so well. 

Just think for a moment of one baby in particular 
who was carried here from a little house in a narrow 
street, not a stone's throw away, more than six long 
centuries ago. I suppose he looked just like any other 
infant, and no one paid much attention to him, except 
the nurse who carried him, and the persons who were 
his godparents, as he received his name — Durante. 
Little did they think that, when hundreds of years had 
passed away, the shortened form of the baby boy's 
name, Dante, would be among the foremost names in 
the world's history, and that he would give to all men, 
for all time, a vision so strange and startling, and yet so 
beautiful, of that other world, to which succeeding 

44 Florence 

generations pass so slowly, and yet so surely, that it 
makes those who read it realize, as perhaps they never 
realized before, the value for good or evil of our actions 
here on earth, and the reality of " things unseen." 

Perhaps as we are sitting here, one of the curtains 
which fall over the doorways will be pushed aside, and 
a little family party will enter. We are in luck, for 
now we will see a baptism, and we watch the service 
eagerly, for it is strange to most of us, being, of course, 
according to the rites of the Church of Rome. 

But the time to see, not one baptism, but many, is on 
a Sunday afternoon, when numbers of babies arrive, 
often as many as twenty or thirty, one after the other, 
some of them evidently very poor, but daintily clean, 
in their little white gowns, or swaddling bands, and 
some of them belonging to rich parents, in beautifully- 
embroidered robes, and covered, faces and all, with 
heavy corded silk coverings, with their initials em- 
broidered in gold upon them. When we see this heavy 
covering, which seems quite enough to suffocate the 
poor little things, we think that the poorer infants have 
the best of it, who are only veiled in thin white veils. 

But there they are, gentle and simple alike, and are 
baptized in the order in which they arrive, two priests 
being engaged in the work, taking the services alter- 
nately — for each baby has a service to itself— and while 
one is engaged in the ceremony, the other is filling up 
the certificate, and necessary papers for the last child. 

Then the little things are carried out into the sun- 
shine again, and back to their various homes, to grow 
up and fulfil the vows which have just been taken for 
them as best they may, in very different surroundings, 
and under very different circumstances. 

Its Builders 45 



Now, after having seen a little of what goes on in the 
city of Florence to-day, we must begin to think about 
the old buildings, and pictures, and statues which it 
contains, and which, above all other things, make it so 
famous, and to do this we must go very far back indeed, 
to somewhere about a.d. 1294, when the grave and 
reverend men who ruled over the city's destinies woke 
up to the fact that the neighbouring and rival towns of 
Pisa and Sienna were having wonderful Cathedrals built, 
while Florence, which was larger, and more important 
than either of them, was content to allow her Bishop's 
Chair to remain in the humble little Church of St. John 
Baptist. But, having once become alive to this fact, 
they lost no time in embellishing their city also. 

In those days great bands of skilled workmen — 
travelling Guilds — as they were called, went up and 
down the country, ready to settle in this town, or that, 
according to where their services were needed, and 
undertake the building of any edifice. 

In one of these bands there was a very skilful 
builder, named Arnolfo, and he either came on his own 
account or was invited to come to Florence, and was 
*' commissioned," as we would say, not only to build a 
new Cathedral, but a Palace for the Signoria, or rulers 
of the city, and another great church as well. 

Of course he only acted as the architect, and he must 
have collected round him a band of other workers, 
for in little more than four years three enormous 



buildings were begun ; the Duomo, or Cathedral, the 
Palazzo Vecchio, and the Church of Santa Croce, which 
stands in the eastern district of the city. 

I have called this chapter the "Builders of Florence," 
and in other chapters we will read about its painters and 
sculptors, but it is almost impossible to separate the 
names of the men who, as it were, made the city, into 
any such divisions, for the builders were often also the 
painters, and the painters the sculptors, and so on. 
For these men were so gifted that they seemed almost 
like Jacks-of-all-trades. They could turn their hands 
to anything. 

So we find that the next name that stands out from 
the mist of these bygone days is that of a painter, 
who yet is described as helping Arnolfo with his plans. 
This was Cimabue, who may be called the Father of 
Florentine Painting, for his is the earliest picture of 
note which is preserved to us — a very stiff, life-sized 
Madonna and Child, which was thought so much of 
that the citizens carried it in procession through the 
streets, and hung it up in the Church of Santa Maria 
Novella, where we can see it to-day. But Cimabue is 
most noted because he discovered a little country boy, 
who had very great talents, both as a builder, and a 
sculptor, and a painter, whose name was Giotto. And 
this was how it came about. 

Cimabue was riding into the country one day upon 
his mule, when he chanced to see a little peasant lad, 
about eight years old, who was in charge of a flock of 
sheep, but who was letting the sheep tend themselves, 
while he drew a picture of one of them on a piece of 
slate with a sharp pointed stone. Cimabue dismounted, 
and looked at the drawing, and he was so struck with 

Its Builders 47 

the talent that it displayed, that he went to the boy's 
father, and asked if he might take the little Giotto 
home with him, and train him in his art. 

The father consented, and we do not hear very much 
more about the lad until his name appears as a friend 
of Dante, and as a well-known fresco-painter, who went 
all over the country, painting sacred pictures on the 
plastered walls of churches by means of what was known 
as " tempera " — or, as we would call it, distemper. 
That is, in colour which is not mixed with oil, but 
with water with a little size in it, to keep it from peel- 
ing off the wall, or, as was sometimes done in Giotto's 
days, with the whites of eggs, or juice of figs. 

You must remember that at this time the common 
people could not read, and those pictures, which either 
represented scenes from the Life of Our Lord, or from 
the Old Testament, or from the Lives of the Saints, 
formed a sort of eye lesson by which they could be 
taught the truths of their religion. 

So Giotto, as he went about his business, painting a 
picture of Heaven on the wall over the altar in the 
Chapel of the Bagello (where, by the way, he painted a 
portrait of his friend Dante as one of the Saints), or 
covering the walls of the Peruzzi Chapel in Santa 
Crocc with scenes from the life of St. John the Baptist 
and St. John the Evangelist, or in Assisi, representing 
stories from the life of St. Francis, or in Padua, or 
Ferrara, was just a skilful teacher of religion, only he 
taught by pictures, not by words. 

Meanwhile the great buildings in Florence were 
being completed by one Master Builder after another, 
for both Arnolfo and Cimabue were dead, and we do 
not know who succeeded them. Arnolfo had intended 



that his magnificent Cathedral should be crowned by a 
dome, but he did not live to see his intention carried 
into effect, and no one else dare try to attempt such a 
difficult piece of building. So it was roofed over with 
a wooden " cupola," and doubtless looked very well as 
it was. 

But the City Fathers were not satisfied. Other 
Cathedrals had at least a Campanile or Tower, where a 
bell could be hung : theirs had none. So they looked 
around for someone to erect one for them. 

There was Giotto, the famous painter, who had now 
returned to Florence, a man of fifty-eight, and was 
working away at altar-pieces, or Crucifixes, or bits of 
exquisite statuary, in his little hottega, or workshop. 
He was the very man, and they called on him to show 
his skill. 

Most men would have said, "Impossible! I cannot 
turn to a new craft at my age.'* Not so Giotto. He 
laid aside his palette and brushes and carving tools for 
the moment, and with compasses and mathematical 
calculations he began to plan out a Tower, fit to be the 
companion of the Cathedral and the Baptistery. All 
the world knows the result. Straight and square, yet 
slender and delicate, Giotto's Tower rose to the skies, 
a building that is absolutely unearthly in its purity and 
its beauty, bright, and fair, and stately, like, as someone 
has said, " the Lily of the Annunciation." 

But, even after the Campanile was finished, no one 
could be found to undertake the task of setting a dome 
on the Church of St. Mary of the Flowers. 

That honour was reserved for a young man named 
Filippo Brunelleschi, who lived nearly a hundred years 
afterwards, and about whose carving of a Crucifix there 


Its Builders 49 

is a very pretty story told, which must go into another 
chapter. He seems to have been a born architect, and, 
when he was quite a youth, he began to turn over in 
his mind methods for completing the Cathedral accord- 
ing to Arnolfo's original design. But everyone laughed 
at him, and told him it was much too difficult a task for 
him to attempt. He was not to be daunted, however, 
and went to Rome, with a great friend of his, Donatello, 
who also figures in the story about the Crucifix, and 
there he wandered about old buildings, studying the 
way that they were built, until he earned for himself 
the nickname of the " Treasure-hunter." He had his 
reward, for, when he returned to Florence, he at last 
persuaded the Signoria to allow him to make the 
attempt, and the result was the enormous dome which 
gives the Cathedral its commonest name — a wonderful 
piece of architecture in any age, more wonderful in those 
days, when as yet the dome of St. Peter's at Rome had 
not been built, and no one had seen anything to 
equal it. 



About the year 1105 there were three friends living in 
Florence, or rather two were living there, for one had 
gone away for a year to wander up and down Italy, 
to see what was going on, and perfect himself in his 

Their names were Filippo Brunelleschi, of whom we 
have heard before, Donato Bardi, and Lorenzo Ghiberti, 
who was the wanderer. 

They were all quite young. Brunelleschi was twenty- 

FL. 7 

50 Florence 

three, so was Ghiberti, while Donato, or Donatello (the 
little Donato), as he was afterwards called, because he 
was very short of stature, was only seventeen. 

The Duomo was built then, only it had not its dome. 
So was Giotto's Tower, and the Baptistery had been 
covered with marble, and one most beautiful pair of 
doors had been supplied to it, those on the south side, 
which had been modelled in bronze by an artist called 
Andrea Pisano. They had taken twenty-two years to 
complete, and represented scenes from the life of St. 
John the Baptist. 

But the doors on the north and east sides were still 
plain and commonplace, and the Signoria and the heads 
of the Trades Guilds made up their minds that they also 
should be taken away, and wrought doors of metal 
put in their places. So they issued a proclamation 
inviting all the " Masters " in Italy to make a " Story 
in Bronze " — that is, a bronze panel — representing 
some Scriptural scene, and submit it for their approval. 

Ghiberti's stepfather was a goldsmith, a worker in 
gold and metals, and his stepson had followed his craft; 
and so certain was the old man that the lad had talent 
enough to compete, that he sent an urgent message for 
him to come home at once, and begin a panel like the rest. 

Ghiberti instantly obeyed, for he had confidence in his 
own ability, and he knew that the man who was chosen 
to model the gates had his fortune made for lite. 

Seven competitors entered, among whom was Brunel- 
leschi, and the subject chosen was the Sacrifice of Isaac. 

We can imagine how eagerly the artists worked, and 
with what excitement they looked forward to the 
decision of the judges. But there were two young 
men who were already quite clear in their minds as to 

The Story of Three Friends 51 

whose panel was most perfectly wrought. These were 
Brunelleschi and Donatello, who went round all the 
workshops and gave their verdicts long before the 
judges had given theirs. 

" Ghiberti's is by far the best," they said ; and the 
words must have cost Brunelleschi a pang, for he was 
very ambitious, and he naturally had hoped to be the 
victor. But if he had been, who would have built the 
dome of the Cathedral ? 

At last the verdict of the judges was announced, and 
it agreed with that of the two friends. Ghiberti had 
eclipsed all the other competitors, and, in spite of his 
youth, he was chosen for the great work. For a great 
work it was. He had already made one panel, but 
each of the double doors required fourteen panels for 
its completion. These panels were to represent scenes 
from the Hfe of Christ, the Apostles, and the early 
Fathers, and must be as perfect as the artist could 
make them in their design and execution. 

It shows us what an important undertaking it was 
considered, when we read that a special order was 
issued by the magistrates, that Ghiberti and all his 
fellow-workmen, the men who looked after the furnaces 
in his workshop, and the melting of the bronze, and 
the casting, were licensed " to go about Florence at 
all hours of the night, but always carrying lamps, 
lighted and visible." Other people had to be in their 
houses by a certain hour, but Ghiberti's furnaces burned 
night and day, and they had to be attended to. 

The artist was a young man when he began these 
gates, he was an old man when he finished them, for 
he spent twenty-two years over the first two doors, and 
twenty-seven years (some people say seventeen) over 

52 Florence 

the second, which represent scenes from Old Testament 


It is worth our while spending some time in studying 

these wonderful doors, of which Michael Angelo said 

that they were "worthy to be the Gates of Paradise," 

for they are certainly amongst the most perfect works 

of art in the world. 

They were Ghiberti's lifework, and we already know 

what Brunelleschi's was. The third of the trio of 

friends, Donatello, was always a sculptor and carver. 

He delighted in producing figures, but we do not read 

of him attempting to paint. 

One of the first really big things he did, and this 
must have been when he was little more than a boy, 
was to carve a wooden Crucifix — we can still see it 
hanging in one of the chapels of Santa Croce — and he 
was so delighted with his work that he showed it to his 
friend Brunelleschi, thinking, no doubt, that he would 
admire it vastly. But Brunelleschi, who, even in his 
early days, was really a very great genius, only smiled 
in a superior way without saying anything. Donatello 
asked him what was the matter with his carving, and 
Brunelleschi, who was always rather contemptuous of 
other people's work, said that it was " a countryman, 
and not the Christ," whom Donatello had represented 
upon the Cross. 

Donatello had an exceedingly sweet temper, but he 
was nettled at the unkind words, so he replied angrily, 
"If it is so easy, take wood, and make a Crucifix 
thyself!" and the friends parted. 

Brunelleschi never referred to the remark again, but 
during the following months he worked secretly at some 
very special bi tof work in his own lodgings. Then 

The Story of Three Friends 53 

one day he asked Donatello to come home to dinner 
with him, and, as was the simple custom of the times, 
the two apprentices, for they were nothing else, bought 
the materials for their repast in the market-place ; 
Donatello insisting on paying for it ; and a very plain 
little repast it was — some eggs, some fruit, and a loaf of 
bread — and he carried them away with him in his apron. 

We can imagine the two lads running up some narrow 
flight of stairs which led to Brunelleschi's lodgings, 
laughing and talking as they went, and bursting into 
his room. Then came the surprise which Brunelleschi 
had, rather ill-naturedly, I think, prepared for his friend. 
There, standing in the very best light, was a wooden 
Crucifix, marvellously carved, and the Figure on the 
Cross wonderfully lifelike. It hangs in the Church of 
Santa Maria Novella to-day, and we can study it for 

Poor Donatello! he stopped short as he looked at it, 
leaving go of his apron in his surprise, and, it may be, 
in his feeling of disappointment, and of course all the 
eggs, and fruit, and bread fell to the ground in one 
confused heap. 

But if there was a little bit of natural sore feeling, 
the generous, open-hearted fellow hid it at once. He 
was too honest not to own that his friend had surpassed 
him, and too much of an artist not to glory in the 
masterpiece before him. "Ah, Brunelleschi," he cried, 
in genuine admiration, " to thee it is given to make the 
Christ, to me only the countryman !" I think that 
Donatello was one of those who had learned to " rule 
*his spirit," and that at that moment he was more to be 
envied than his friend. 

After hearing this story it is nice to know that to 

54 Florence 

Donatello also " it was given " to make many beautiful 
statues and bas-reliefs. There is one in particular which 
ought to be an inspiration to everyone, especially to 
every boy and girl who looks at it. I mean the statue 
of St. George, which he carved for the Guild of the 
Armourers, to place outside the Church of Or San 

This is a very beautiful church situated near the 
Duomo, and there are life-sized statues standing in 
niches all round the outside of it, placed there by the 
various Guilds. Donatello's " St. George " stood for 
centuries in a niche at one corner of the building, 
looking down on the passers-by. 

But at last it was considered too precious to remain 
there any longer, so it was taken down, and a copy of 
it put up instead ; and now the original stands in the 
great hall of the Bargello or Palace of the Podesta, 
which is now used as a National Museum. 

It represents a young man, in simple armour, leaning 
on his shield, which bears the Sign of the Cross. He 
carries no weapons, and his face is grave and purpose- 
ful, yet quite calm and restful, as if he were quietly 
waiting for the call to go forth and fight the evil which 
he knows is sure to attack him. 

Below, in bas-belief, is a little representation of St. 
George fighting the Dragon, as if to give a hint of 
what the young warrior's after-life would be. 

Many years after this figure had been placed in its 
niche, and when the hands that had fashioned it so 
marvellously were mouldering in the dust, that greatest 
of all sculptors, Michael Angelo, wandering about the 
streets of Florence, stopped in front of it, and uttered 
the one word, ^^Camminal"* 

* March ! 

Its Palaces 55 

Close beside the statue of St. George, in the hall of 
the Bargello, are other works by Donatello. On the 
wall is a bas-relief in bronze, which is very well known, 
of St. John the Baptist as a child, showing only the 
head and shoulders, with a slender Cross rising behind 
him, while near-by is a statue of David with his foot 
on the head of Goliath, and another of St. John the 
Baptist as a young man. 



Florence, as we saw in the first chapter, is a city of 
Palaces. Whenever a great noble rose into power, 
whenever a member of one of the Merchant Guilds 
grew so rich that he thought he could " found a family," 
he straightway built himself a Palace, and these massive 
blocks of masonry were erected as much for places of 
defence as for places of abode, for who knew at what 
moment those who occupied them might not fall into 
ill-favour, and be besieged within their walls by the 
citizens, or by the followers of another noble house ? 

These Palaces are still standing, as grim and strong 
as in the days when they were built, and the more 
important of them are used as public galleries, or 
museums, where wonderful collections of paintings, and 
sculpture, and other works of art are exhibited. Others 
are used as public offices, others, again, as private 

There are about a hundred houses which bear the 
name of " Palazzo " in Florence, so we can only visit 
one or two of the largest, and see what they look like. 
First of all there is the Palazzo del Bargello, or Palace 

56 Florence 

of the Police, which was at first the Palazzo del 
Podesta, or Palace of the Chief Magistrate. It was 
built at the same time as the Cathedral and the Palazzo 
Vecchio. It stands in the Via Proconsolo, and from the 
outside, it is just an enormous square battlemented 
building, three stories high, with a tower, also battle- 
mented, at one corner. 

But when we enter, and pass through the Great Hall, 
now filled with armour, but which in the old days was 
used as a torture-chamber, we at once find ourselves in 
a medieval fortress. The Palace is not a solid block 
of buildings, as we might suppose, looking at it from 
the street, but it is built round an open courtyard, 
paved with stone, and with a well in the middle ; so 
that, if plenty of provisions were stored in the under- 
ground chambers, and the great gates were bolted and 
barred, the Podesta and his friends might have success- 
fully sustained a prolonged siege. 

The courtyard of this Palace is typical of many 
others, only it is larger and grander, and a broad out- 
side stone staircase leads from it to the second story, 
which is not usual. Round the courtyard runs a stone 
loggia, upon which the second and third stories rest. 
They are closed in by ordinary walls, and form long 
gallery-like rooms, with small windows looking into the 
surrounding streets, and large ones looking into the 
courtyard. These rooms are now filled with pictures 
and statuary, but the old walls and vaulted ceilings, 
covered in many places with paintings and frescoes, the 
ancient woodwork, and quaint fireplaces, remain to show 
us in what a dignified and cultured way these old 
Florentine officials and nobles lived. 

Here, for instance, on the second story, is the 



Its Palaces 57 

Podesti's Audience-Chamber, with a vaulted ceiling, 
painted azure blue, to represent the sky, and studded 
with golden stars. On one side is a most magnificent 
open fireplace, with a broad hearth, and " dogs," on 
which to rest the blazing logs in winter, and we can 
well imagine what a beautiful room it would be when 
the. firelight fell on the polished floor, and on the quaint 
wooden chairs and settles with which it would be 
furnished. Opening out of it is a chapel, which must 
have been a very stately place of worship. The floor 
is of marble, the stalls for the worshippers of carved and 
inlaid wood, and the walls and roof are covered with old 
frescoes in delicate colours, painted by Giotto. 

There is something very interesting here. Giotto 
was Dante's friend, and he was proud of the fact. 
Look ! On the east wall, above where the altar stood, 
is a representation of Heaven, with all the Redeemed 
thronging into it, and there among them, on the right, 
is Dante, in the ordinary dress which a Florentine 
citizen wore at that date ; for these old painters did not 
hesitate to make their sacred pictures very reaHstic, and 
would often paint, not the figures of Jews of Palestine, 
or of Wise Men of the East, but of the ordinary Italian 
people among whom they lived and worked. 

But, alas! culture very often went hand in hand with 
terrible cruelty in those days. Next to the beautiful 
chapel — opening out of it, in fact — is a little room used 
as a cell, where a poor man, who, when he was young, 
had been a Franciscan monk, but had broken his vows 
and become a brigand, was chained, as a punishment, 
like a dog to the wall, for thirty years, till he died. 

Again, the picturesque Audience-Chamber, which 
we have just been admiring, served, some six hundred 

FL. 8 



years ago, as the retiring-room of the Duke of Athens, 
who had been such a wicked man that he was obliged 
to take refuge in the Bargellofrom the vengeance of some 
of the nobles of Florence who had suffered from his 
tyranny. They besieged the building until he and 
his followers were like to die of starvation, then, to 
his everlasting disgrace, he saved his life, not by going 
out to the enraged citizens himself, but by opening the 
door a very little, and pushing out one of his Knights, 
and the Knight's son, a boy of eighteen, who had both 
been very zealous in carrying out their master's orders. 
The citizens were satisfied with these two victims, whom 
they hacked to pieces at once, and carried the bloody 
fragments of flesh through the streets on their lances. 

Such were the contrasts which Florence presented in 
those days. Violence, and scheming, and bloodshed in 
the streets and Palaces, and in tiny little workshops, 
and churches, and convent cells, plain, homely men, who 
yet were the possessors of marvellous gifts, working 
quietly at paintings, or sculptures, or carvings, which 
are looked on now as priceless treasures. 

Then there is the Palazzo della Signoria, or the 
Palace of the Governors of the city, more commonly 
called the Palazzo Vecchio, or Old Palace, standing at 
the side of the Piazza della Signoria. It has rather a 
curious history. 

Arnolfo, about whom we have read in the chapter on 
" Builders," was asked to build a Palace for the Signoria. 
But, unfortunately, it was just at the time when there 
was such a rivalry between the parties of the Guelphs 
and the Ghibellines. The Guelphs were in power, and 
to show their hatred of the Ghibellines they told the 
poor architect that he must build the Palace in the 

Its Palaces 59 

square, and yet that he must on no account build it on 
a foot of ground which had belonged to the Ghibellines — 
which was somewhat difficult, for these Ghibellines 
had once had a Palace in the centre of the square, the 
very place on which Arnolfo was planning to build! 

But there was no help for it. He had to do as he 
was bid, so with great difficulty, and by dint of knock- 
ing down a house or two, and part of a church, he 
managed to get his new Palace squeezed into a corner 
of the square. It had to stand a little off the straight, 
but that did not matter. And, to add to his difficulties, 
he had to take in an old tower, the Tower of the Vacca, 
or Cow, in which a bell hung, called " The Cow," of 
which the citizens were very fond. But he managed 
to do this also, and he made the Tower higher, so that 
it would rise above the rest of the Palace. 

It is a beautiful Tower, with a wonderful crown of 
stone upon it, in which the old bell still hangs. But 
Arnolfo did not live to complete it. He was quite 
content to have designed and built the solid building, 
however, '' the difficult part," as he called it, and was 
willing that "other Masters," who came after him, 
should do the rest. 

Other two very large and famous Palaces are the 
Uffizi Palace, one corner of which stands just opposite 
the Palazzo Vecchio, and is so big that it forms two sides 
of the street which runs from the Piazza della Signoria 
to the Arno ; and the Pitti Palace, which stands on the 
other side of the river. 

The Pitti Palace was built for a private citizen, Luca 
Pitti, in the fifteenth century, and as we look at its 
enormous size and strength we realize how wealthy 
these old merchants of Florence were. But misfortune 

6o Florence 

fell upon his family, and they were forced to sell it to 
the wife of one of their bitterest foes, Cosimo de' 
Medici. Since then it has always been the Palace of 
the reigning Sovereign, of the Grand Dukes first, then 
of the present King, who lives here when he comes to 

Not satisfied with the Pitti Palace as a residence, 
Cosimo also built the Uffizi Palace, and there is a 
secret passage between the two, or a so-called secret 
passage, for, as it is formed by the covered gallery 
which was built upon the Ponte Vecchio, it must always 
have been plainly seen. This was for purposes of 
safety. If the Pitti Palace were attacked the inhabitants 
could escape to the Uffizi, and probably they had also 
a secret means of exit from the passage into one of the 
tiny houses which surrounded it, at either end of the 

Once in the Uffizi Palace, Cosimo's family at least 
was fairly safe ; for close to it — adjoining it, in fact — is a 
great loggia, raised about six feet from the street, known 
as the Loggia de' Lanzi, which took its name from the 
Swiss Lancers who were always stationed here, as a 
bodyguard for the Duke and his friends. 

And besides this, another covered passage, high up 
in the air, connects the Palace with the Palazzo Vecchio, 
where a strong body of soldiers would always be 

Yet, in spite of these precautions, the downfall of this 
powerful family came at last ; and the son of Lorenzo 
the Magnificent, after weakly delivering up the city 
into the hands of Charles the Eighth of France, was 
driven beyond its walls by the avenging citizens. 

The two Palaces are turned into huge picture- 

Two Old Monasteries 6i 

galleries — at least, the whole of the Uffizi is used for 
this purpose, and one wing of the Pitti Palace, the rest 
of it serving, as we have seen, as a Royal residence. 

In these galleries hang hundreds of beautiful 
paintings, some of them celebrated all over the world, 
and if we had time we might well spend days and weeks 
in doing nothing else but studying them. 



If we leave the city by the Porto San Gallo, and walk 
along the road that leads to Fiesole, we will come to 
an old church and convent, just at the foot of the hill, 
where the road begins to ascend. This is the Convent 
of San Domenico di Fiesole, and although it is not 
particularly interesting in itself, we must visit it if we 
want to know something of the life of Guido da Vicchio, 
better known as " Fra Angelico," the " AngeUc Brother," 
with whose paintings of angels we are all familiar, 
whether we have been to Florence or not — angels clad 
in bright-coloured robes, scarlet and green, blue and 
amber, with halos round their heads, and trumpets 
or cymbals in their hands, who are always looking 
upwards, as if they were joining in the Angelic Song of 

For it was to the doors of this convent that Guido 
and his brother Benedetto, who afterwards became 
Pope, came some five hundred years ago, from their 
home among the hills — two country lads of twenty and 
nineteen — and craved admittance. 

Guido was a born artist, but he felt that he must 

62 Florence 

become a monk, and it was wonderful how he managed 
to combine the two vocations. His Prior, like a sensible 
man, allowed him to go on with his art in the convent, 
and Guido, or Fra Giovanni, as he was called in his 
new home, looked on his art always as a gift given to 
him from God, to be used in the service of the Church, 
and he did more, perhaps, than will ever be known, to 
strengthen the faith of his brother-monks in the reality 
of things unseen, by the beautiful frescoes with which 
he surrounded them. 

We see most of these frescoes in the Convent of San 
Marco, within the city walls, where he spent many of 
his later years ; but it was while he lived here, at 
San Domenico, that he gained the skill, and the self- 
confidence, and the delicate art of colouring which 
make his works so different from those of any other 
artist. He gained his skill by patient, untiring practice ; 
he gained his self-confidence from the fact that he never 
began to paint without first kneeling down and saying 
his prayers, and having done this, he never altered a 
picture, or listened to what anyone else said about it, 
because he believed that God granted him inspiration 
for his work ; and he gained his sense of colour by 
wandering about the hills round the monastery, and 
drinking in, as it were, all the wonderfully blended 
tints that surrounded him — the blue of the sky, the 
tender greys and greens of the olive and fig trees, 
the reds and pinks of the carnations, oleanders, and 
roses, and the purples and heliotropes of the clematis 
and lilac. 

Someone has said that Fra Angelico's palette might 
have been " made out of a rainbow," and it is quite 
true ; and we have only to go up the hill of Fiesole 

Two Old Monasteries 63 

on a bright day in early summer to understand how he 
learned to set it. 

Thus, when, after twenty years of life at San 
Domenico, he was sent with the other members of the 
Community to take possession of the Monastery of San 
Marco, he was ready for the congenial task that lay 
before him. The monastery was in ruins, having been 
destroyed by fire, and the brethren had to live at first 
in miserable huts, which had been hurriedly built for 
them. These were so unhealthy that a great many of 
them died, and the Pope interfered, and prevailed on 
Cosimo de' Medici, who was then the great man in 
Florence, to rebuild the monastery. 

Let us go and visit it, for it stands to-day just as it 
stood when it was completed, and Fra Giovanni and 
his friends took possession of it. Only then the walls 
were cold and bare, now they are covered with very 
quaint and lovely frescoes. For the Prior asked the 
gentle artist-monk, whom everyone loved, who was 
already earning for himself the title of " Fra Angelico," 
or *' Beato Angelico," partly because of the beauty of 
his paintings, and partly for his sweet and holy character, 
to hide the bareness of the walls by painting pictures upon 
them. And we may be sure that Fra Angelico was only 
too glad to obey, for his thoughts were always busy with 
heavenly things, and now he had an opportunity of doing 
his part to keep the image of these heavenly things 
before the eyes of men. 

So he set to work upon the bare white walls, and 
although he has been dead nearly five hundred years, 
his pictures, so simple and yet so beautiful, greet us 
still as we wander through the deserted monastery, 
which is now more or less of a museum. 



As we enter the quiet cloister, we find ourselves 
opposite a picture of the Crucifixion — ^just the Figure 
on the Cross and a Dominican monk kneeling beneath 
it. This was copied in each of the novice's cells up- 
stairs by Fra Angelico's brother, PVa Benedetto, who 
must also have been a very clever painter. 

If we turn round and look above the door by which 
we entered, we shall see another suggestive picture. 
It is a figure intended to represent St. Peter Martyr, 
one of the most famous Dominican Saints, with his finger 
on his lip, as if to remind the Brothers, as they glanced 
up at him, of their rule of silence. Over another door- 
way we see two Dominican monks receiving our Lord in 
the person of a tired wayfarer. We wonder, as we look 
at this, if it were a gentle hint to the Community not 
to be "forgetful to entertain strangers." 

But, interesting as the cloisters are, the little cells 
upstairs are more so. Each has its picture, painted on 
the space of wall near the window. All of them are 
scenes from our Lord's life, and show how the 
thoughts of the artist-monk must have dwelt constantly 
upon it. 

Here our Lord is teaching the twelve Apostles ; 
here He is transfigured upon the mountain. Here 
we see Him bound and buffeted, and, strangely, only 
the hands of those who buffet Him are visible. Now 
He descends into Hell, and the wonderful love and 
imagination of the old painter gives us a glorious 
representation of how 

" Patriarch and Priest and Prophet 
Gather round Him as He stands, 
In adoring faith and gladness, 
Hearing of the pierced Hands." 


Two Old Monasteries 65 

Here is His Resurrection, and here His Ascension, 
and final Glory. 

And outside, in the passage, is one of the most 
beautiful of all, an "Annunciation," where the Arch- 
angel Gabriel comes to tell the Maiden of Nazareth 
about the birth of our Lord. Surely the monks who 
lived among these pictures — and, remember, Savonarola 
and the good Archbishop Antonino were at one time 
among their number — must have had their daily lives 
influenced by them. 

Other pictures of Fra Angelico's are to be found 
elsewhere, especially in the picture - gallery of the 
Uffizi Palace. Here we can see a wonderful altar- 
piece, or reredos, as we should call it, "The Coronation 
of the Virgin amid the Heavenly Choir," and another 
of the Madonna and Child, surrounded by a multitude 
of the Heavenly Host, simply dazzling in their glory 
of clear-tinted colours and burnished gold, from which 
most of his angels, either single, or in groups, are copied. 



It is difficult to write about the painters and sculptors 
of Florence because there are so many that it would 
need quite a big book to tell a little bit about each of 
them. But we cannot go into the picture-galleries and 
churches and museums without seeing their work, and 
coming across their names, so I think that we must 
learn a little about the best-known of them. We 
have already spoken of Cimabue, Giotto, Fra Angelico, 
Ghiberti, Brunelleschi, Donatello, and Luca Delia 

FL. 9 

66 Florence 

Robbia, so we must go on to those men who came after 
them, or, at least, who came after the first three. First 
there was Filippo Lippi, and his son, Filipplno Lippi, 
whose frescoes and altar-pieces are after the same style 
as those of Fra Angelico, and specimens of whose work 
we may see in the galleries, and the Church of the 
Carmine. For of course v/e must remember that all 
these early painters painted only religious pictures, the 
most common subjects being the Annunciation, the 
Madonna and Child, the Holy Family (which very 
often includes St. Joseph and the little St. John Baptist), 
the Adoration by the Wise Men of the East, the 
Crucifixion, Christ's Descent from the Cross, and his 
Exaltation in Glory. 

Filippo Lippi took pupils, as most of the great 
Masters did, and among them was Sandro Botticelli, 
whose works are very well known in Italy, although 
perhaps we do not hear so much about them in England. 
This painter was born in a house in the Via Nuovo, and 
was the youngest child but one of a very large family. 
He was a delicate little boy, and was handed over to 
the care of a prosperous elder brother, who paid for his 
upbringing, and, when he was thirteen, apprenticed him, 
as we have seen, to Filippo Lippi. 

When he was a man he went to Rome, and helped to 
paint some of the chapels in the Vatican. He returned 
to Florence, and although he had not taken much 
interest in Savonarola when he was alive, he was so im- 
pressed by the bravery and steadfastness of his death, 
that he became a deeply religious man, and people say 
that the pictures that he painted afterwards, were always 
touched with a certain sadness. A great many of these 
pictures are in the galleries of the Pitti and Uflizi 

Its Painters and Sculptors 67 

Palaces, and one of them, a '* Nativity," is in the 
National Gallery in London. 

Then comes Leonardo da Vinci, and Perugino, and 
Lorenzo Credi, all of whom worked together as lads in 
the workshop of a sculptor named Andrea Verrochio. 

Leonardo da Vinci, who is best known perhaps by 
his painting of the "Last Supper," which is to be found 
on the walls of a convent in Milan, was a country lad, 
who came from a little village among the hills, but who 
was such a wonderful painter that he was admitted as a 
member of the " Guild of Florentine Painters " when 
he was only twenty. He was something of a " Jack- 
of-all-trades," for he was such a genius that he not only 
painted pictures, but was an engineer, an architect, and 
a sculptor as well. 

His friend Perugino may be counted as one of the 
painters of Florence, for he spent the years when he 
was poor, and struggling, and unknown in this city. 
Afterwards he lived in the city of Perugia, and had his 
studio there, but that was in the days when he was 
famous, not only in Italy, but throughout Europe. He 
was one of the first of the Italian painters who painted 
in oils. 

When he was in Florence he was so poor that he 
had no bed, but slept on a chest for many months, and 
denied himself the bare necessities of life, in order that 
he might have money to buy colours, and persevere in 
his art. He has been compared to Fra Angelico, 
because he was such a saintly man that he always 
seemed to be thinking of heaven, and the faces that 
he painted are so calm and peaceful that it has been 
said of his work, "that no pain comes near the folk ot 
his Celestial City." He had the honour to be the 

68 Fl 


master of Raphael, who also spent part of his life in 
Florence, and was a friend of Ghiberti and Donatello. 

Raphael, as you know, was one of the greatest 
painters that the world has ever seen, just as Michael 
Angelo was one of the greatest sculptors. He 
painted many pictures, representing many subjects, 
but he loved, more than anything else, to paint pictures 
of the Madonna and her Child. Perhaps this was 
because he lost his mother when he was a little boy, and 
in his home hung a picture of her, with one of her 
children on her knee, and perhaps he used to go and 
look at it, and study it, until the idea of motherhood, 
calm, and sweet, and loving, was stamped on his brain, 
and influenced all his work. 

A great many of his pictures are in Florence, among 
them being the " Madonna della Sedia," or the 
" Madonna of the Chair," which I am sure you all 
know. It represents the Virgin Mother seated on a 
chair, with the Infant Jesus on her lap, and little 
St. John the Baptist leaning against her knee. 

Another of his Madonnas, the " Sistine Madonna," 
is in the Dresden Gallery, the Elector of Saxony having 
bought it for ^9,000, while our own nation paid 
^70,000 for his " Ansidei Madonna," which is now in 
the National Gallery. 

Lastly we come to Michael Angelo, that great 
sculptor, who came to the city as a boy of fourteen, and 
who is buried in the Church of Sante Croce. He also 
was a country lad, and his flither would fain have 
apprenticed him to some dealer in silk or wool, thinking 
that he would get on in life better as a merchant than 
as an artist. 

But the boy's talent would not be suppressed in that 

Its Painters and Sculptors 69 

way, and after much opposition he was allowed to go 
to Florence, and enter the workshop of Domenico 

From the first he showed extraordinary talent. 
Shortly after he went to the city, Lorenzo dc' Medici, 
'' Lorenzo the Magnificent," who had a garden full of 
beautiful statuary, arranged that a very clever sculptor, 
named Butoldo, should come to the garden at certain 
hours, and help any student who wanted to improve 
himself by studying and copying these works of art. 

Ghirlandajo thought this a very good opportunity 
for his young apprentices to improve themselves, and 
he sent Michael Angelo to the garden along with some 
of the other lads. 

Up till then Michael had never done anything else 
but model in clay or bronze ; but, to everyone's astonish- 
ment, after he had visited the garden two or three times, 
he took up a chisel and a block of marble, and made such 
a wonderful copy of a faun's head, that Lorenzo, seeing 
that he had unusual ability, took him to live in his 
house, and treated him as one of his own children. 

But in four years the great man died, and the young 
sculptor was thrown on his own resources. Perhaps this 
was rather good for him, for he went " abroad " for a 
time, visiting Venice, Bologna, and Rome, and doubtless 
learned much from the works of art that he saw there. 

When he returned to Florence, he carved one of his 
most beautiful statues, and in doing so, he *' killed two 
birds with one stone," for he put the Fathers of the City 
out of a difficulty, and at the same time produced a work 
of art that has been the pride of Florence ever since. 

This is how it happened : — A hundred years before, 
the City Fathers had entrusted a huge and costly block 

yo Florence 

of marble to a sculptor named Simone da Fiesole, who 
was to carve the figure of a giant out of it. Simone 
undertook to do so, but he failed utterly, and an un- 
shapely mass of marble was the result. 

For a century it lay in the precincts of the Cathedral, 
too heavy to be removed, and yet useless — so people 
thought. But Michael Angelo, looking at it, saw what 
possibilities lay in its very shapelessness. 

He modelled a figure in wax, of David, the shepherd- 
lad, with a sling in his hand, and, taking it to the 
Signoria, he said to them that, if they would allow him, 
he would carve a like figure, only in gigantic propor- 
tions, out of the marble by which they laid so little store, 
and it could be set in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, to 
show *' that, as David had defended his people, and 
governed them with justice, so whosoever governed 
that city should boldly defend it, and justly govern it." 

Permission was granted, and he, not wishing to be 
troubled with curious onlookers, built a shed round 
and over the block, and carved away at it with mallet 
and chisel in private. 

At last it was finished, and the barriers were taken 
down, and there, white and dazzling in the sunlight, 
stood a colossal statue of the youthful Hebrew hero, 
perfect in every detail, except that one shoulder was a 
little flat, because Simone had cut the stone away too 
much in that place. 

This statue stood for many years in front of the 
Palazzo Vecchio, but at last, like Donatello's St. George, 
it was considered too precious to be left out in the 
open air, and it was removed to the Accademia delle 
Belle Arti, where it now stands. 

There are many other of Michael Angelo's statues in 

Its Painters and Sculptors 7 1 

Florence, especially in the Medici Chapel in the Church 
of San Lorenzo ; indeed, the whole chapel was designed 
and built by the great sculptor, and within it are six 
of his most famous works. These are the statues of 
Lorenzo, Duke of Urbino, father of Catherine de' Medici, 
and of his uncle, Giuliano, son of Lorenzo the Magnifi- 
cent, and four other figures, one of which is unfinished, 
representing Day and Night, Dawn and Twilight. 

There are many other things connected with Michael 
Angelo in Florence. We can see his house and little 
study in the Via Ghibellina, and the fortifications which 
he built on the heights of San Miniato, when he was 
called, along with the other townsfolk, to help to defend 
the city against her foes. But in order to know all 
about his life we should need to read some book which 
is written about that alone. 



We have already visited the tiny square of San Mar- 
tino, to see the almsbox belonging to the Good 
Men of St. Martin, which is built into the wall of 
St. Martin's Church. 

But let us go back once more just to glance at this 
newly-built house at the corner of the square, and read 
the inscription over the arched doorway. It tells us 
that the poet Dante, the greatest Florentine of all, 
was born here. 

Unfortunately the house has been completely rebuilt, 
so it has not the associations that it otherwise would 
have had, but at least we can say that it was here that 
the poet was born, and in this square that he played as 

72 Florence 

a child, and in that little church across the road that he 
was married. 

You all know something of the story of Dante's life. 
He was one of those seers, like the old prophets, and 
like John Bunyan, to whom God spoke in a wonderful 
way, granting him a vision, or a very deep degree 
of insight into the condition of souls after death — 
of how, to use his own words, " man renders himself 
liable by good or ill desert, in the exercise of his free- 
will, to rewarding or punishing justice," which just 
means, in simple language, that what we sow here, we 
shall reap hereafter. Only Dante saw, with clearer eyes 
than many of us see nowadays, that God can turn 
pain and suffering, in the next life, as well as this, to a 
good end, and that in His love He can use them to 
purify the souls of men, and make them more fit to be 
with Him at last. 

Dante, or to give him his full name, Durante Alighieri, 
was the son of a member of the Guild of Wool, a 
woollen merchant, as we should call him, and he was 
born in the month of May, 1265. 

We do not know if there was anything remarkable 
about his early childhood, but when he was nine years 
old something very strange happened, not strange in 
itself, but in the consequences that followed it. 

His father had a friend named Tolco Portinari, who 
seems to have been better off than himself, for he lived 
in a larger house, and, when little Dante was nine years 
old, this Tolco gave a May-Day feast, and invited, not 
only all his grown-up friends, but their children as well, 
which must have made it a most delightful gathering. 

And there among the children, was Toko's own little 
daughter, Beatrice, whom he called *' Bice," for short, 

THE 1 

wm m iff»> Mij^ft 

Its Poet 73 

although she was always addressed by her proper name 
in company. 

She was a few months younger than Dante, and 
seems to have been a very charming child, with gentle, 
modest manners, and grave beyond her years. 

As their parents were friends, it appears impossible that 
the children had not met before, but on that evening 
the little boy seemed to see the little girl in a new light, 
almost as if she were a being too bright and rare for 
this earth, and from that moment she represented to 
him all that was pure and good and true, and, although 
he never married her, as one might have expected him 
to do when they were both grown up, the thought of 
her was the inspiration of his life, and he always tried 
to be worthy of her friendship. 

He thought so much of this meeting, that, when he 
was a man, he wrote down, quite seriously, all about it, 
and tells us how Beatrice's dress that day, "was of a 
most noble colour, a subdued and goodly crimson, 
girdled as best suited her very tender age." 

We do not read that Dante saw much more of 
his '' Blessed Lady," as he used to call her, in after 
years. At least, they were not close friends. But he 
used to watch her coming and going through the streets, 
and once, when she was about eighteen, he tells us he 
met her walking with two of her companions, and she 
gave him a most " gracious greeting." 

She married a man much older than herself, and very 
soon afterwards she died, and Dante's heart was broken. 
Not that his life was spoilt — far from it. Beatrice's 
death was the beginning of his life-work, for which, it 
seemed, he could only be prepared by bitter sorrow. 

He married, and had a number of children, and took 

FL. 10 

74 Florence 

his part right manfully in public affairs. He served 
as a soldier, and even became one of the eight Priori, 
or chief magistrates of the city. Then, at the age of 
twenty-six, he was most unjustly banished from Florence 
by the Guelphs, whose follower he once had been, but 
whose ranks he had left to join those of the Ghibellines, 
and, although he lived for twenty-one years afterwards, 
he was never allowed to return. 

But this was only his outward life. His mind was 
constantly dwelling on Beatrice, and on the unseen 
world on which she had entered, and more and more 
he began to look on every earthly thing only in regard 
to what its value would be in the next world. 

When he saw men fighting for place and power, he 
asked himself what good earthly place and power would 
do them when they came to die, and when he heard of 
men growing rich by oppressing their poorer neighbours, 
or simply living in luxury and pleasing themselves, he 
wondered how God would judge such lives. 

Then when he became an exile, and his time was no 
longer taken up by the affairs of government, he 
pondered over these questions still more deeply, until 
it really seemed to him that he was taken into the 
Unseen World, and, in his mortal body, travelled 
through Hell, and the Place of Purification, and into 
Heaven itself In those regions it seemed to him that 
he met people that he knew. Some of them had 
deliberately led wicked lives, and had died unre- 
pentant, and were therefore hopelessly sunk in Hell. 
Others, again, had really wanted to be good, but had 
been greedy, lazy, slothful, proud, envious, unloving, 
or passionate ; or had been covetous and cared too 
much about being rich ; or gluttonous, and cared too 

Its Poet 75 

much about eating and drinking. These were slowly 
climbing a mountain, and, as they climbed, they were 
being purified by having to bear punishments suited to 
their faults. 

The proud, who had carried themselves so arrogantly 
on earth, had to go about for a time weighed down by 
heavy burdens ; those who had made everything dark 
around them through their anger and ill-temper, had to 
walk and live in thick black smoke which almost blinded 
them. Those who had been lazy, and unwilling to 
exert themselves in God's service, could not rest, but 
felt that now they must for ever be running onward ; 
those who thought only about money were obliged to 
lie with their faces in the dust, with their backs turned 
towards the Heaven they longed to enter, and so on. 

But, in spite of all these punishments, the Mount of 
Purification was a happy place, for those who were 
suffering there were learning to see what their sin had 
been, and were gradually being purified and made 
ready for the Presence of God. 

Then, finally, Dante passed into Heaven, and saw the 
bliss and happiness of the Saints — among whom was 
Beatrice — who had so overcome their faults in this life, 
and so denied themselves, and lived only for God's 
glory, that they had been counted worthy to be with 
Him at once in Heaven. 

Dante described all these things in a long poem of 
fourteen thousand lines, called the "Divina Commedia," 
which is divided into three parts — the Inferno, the 
Purgatoro, and the Paradiso — which has been trans- 
lated into English, and you may read it for yourselves 
when you are older. 

Of course a great deal of it is allegorical ; we cannot 

76 Florence 

say that it Is literally true, that when we die things 
will happen to us exactly as Dante says they will ; but 
it is true in spirit, and contains a great many lessons 
v/hich it would be well for us to ponder, and gives us 
many ideas about the future life which make that life 
appear much more real and interesting. 



If Florence had its poet, it also had its martyr — 

I can only tell you here the bare outline of his life, 
but no book about Florence, no matter how small it is, 
would be complete without some mention of him, for 
although he was not born in the city, he spent the best 
years of his life in seeking the good of the citizens, both 
religiously and politically, and he laid it down at last 
for their sakes. He was born at Ferrara in 1452, and 
his parents were gentlefolks, although they were not 
very rich. His grandfather had been a very celebrated 
physician, and it was hoped that young Girolamo — for 
that was his Christian name — might follow in his steps. 
Perhaps at first he made up his mind to do so, and 
looked forward to a life of prosperity and honour, but 
other thoughts began to fill his brain as he grew older, 
and another Voice to call him. 

Italy was in a very flourishing condition at this time, 
and it almost always happens that when people grow 
rich and comfortable they also grow lazy and luxurious, 
and sometimes even wicked. The Italians had grown 
very wicked and careless, and their wickedness and care- 
lessness vexed the soul of the young Savonarola, who 

Its Martyr 77. 

was very grave-minded, and serious beyond his years. 
He did not know what to do. He did not see what 
was the best way in which he could make a protest 
against the luxury, selfishness, and idleness of the people, 
and we are told that he often used to repeat this prayer : 
" O Lord, make me to know the way wherein I may 
guide my soul." 

At last he determined to enter a monastery ; so he 
joined the Dominican Order at Bologna. He was just 
twenty-three then, and for seven long years he had to 
wait, as so many strong men have had to wait, before 
he could lift a finger, or utter a word, to try to fight the 
evils he saw everywhere around him. For instead of 
being sent out to preach, as so many of the Dominican 
Brethren were, he was set to teach the novices philo- 
sophy, which has very little to do with everyday life. 

Then he was sent to Florence, to the Monastery of 
San Marco, which we have already visited, and which 
must have looked, on the day that he entered it, very 
much as it looks now, with its quiet cloisters and its 
little cells, with Fra Angelico's pictures painted upon 
their walls. For, at the time that Savonarola came to 
Florence, the " Blessed Angelico " had been dead only 
some thirty years. 

Now, if the people of Ferrara were luxurious and 
wicked, the people of Florence were more so. For the 
city was ruled at this time by one of the Medici, whose 
name was Lorenzo, who was practically a pagan, and 
who was so fond of splendour and foolish display of all 
kinds, that he was known as "Lorenzo the Magnificent." 
He set a very bad example to the citizens, especially to 
the younger generation, who were growing up without 
belief in God, and who learned from him to think that 



it was a fine thing to live in idleness, and wastefulness, 
and sin. 

Even in Florence, for a time, Savonarola had very little 
opportunity to speak the words of warning and rebuke 
that had been in his heart for so many years. He still 
had to teach the novices, but, occasionally, in Advent or 
Lent, he was sent out along with the other monks to 
preach. But he was a Lombard, and the accent of the 
Lombards was a trifle hard and uncouth compared to 
the accent of the cultivated Florentines, so it came to 
pass that when he preached his first sermon in the Church 
of San Lorenzo, there were only about twenty-five people 
who had the patience to listen to him. 

After that he was only allowed to preach in the little 
villages in the mountains, where the people were not so 
particular, and where they listened gladly to what he had 
to say to them about the need for repentance, and the 
care that they must take to live godly lives. These 
preaching tours took place, as we have seen, only once 
or twice a year, and the rest of his time was spent in the 
quiet monotony of lecturing to the novices. It is said 
that in these years of patient waiting Savonarola learned 
the whole of the Bible by heart, and that is perhaps why 
he afterwards gained such influence as a preacher. 

But, although he was only supposed to teach his pupils 
philosophy, it was impossible for him to keep other things 
out of his lectures — the things that spoke of" righteous- 
ness, temperance, and judgment to come," and as there 
were many grave and serious-minded men in Florence, 
who were distressed and alarmed at the mad thoughtless- 
ness which seemed to have taken possession of their 
fellow-citizens, they listened to the rumours which began 
to get about of the monk of San Marco who spoke so 

Its Martyr 79 

plainly and wisely to the students under his care. One 
by one they went to hear him lecture, then they took 
any of their friends who were of the same mind as 
themselves, and by-and-by Fra Savonarola's lecture- 
room became too small for his audience, and we have a 
delightful picture of him leading his listeners out to 
the cloister one summer evening — that cloister on the 
walls of which Fra Angelico's Crucifixion is painted, and 
sitting below a damask rose-tree, talking of the serious- 
ness of life and death, the white-robed novices clustered 
round him, while the rest of the space was filled with 
the grave Signors of Florence, who drank in eagerly 
every word he said. 

After that they begged that his voice might be heard 
in the church near by, and, for the next eight years, he 
preached at regular intervals, first in the Church of San 
Marco, and then, as the crowds who thronged to hear 
him grew larger and larger, in the vast Cathedral itself. 

People say that he was one of the greatest preachers 
that the world has ever known, and this was because he 
was so much in earnest. He was like St. John the 
Baptist, he had a burning desire to " prepare the way 
of the Lord," and the whole burden of his message to 
the people was that they should " repent " and put away 
their evil doings from them. " If not," he said, " an 
awful doom will fall on the Church, and on the city 
which you love so well." 

And, strange to say, people flocked in thousands to 
hear him. They forgot the roughness of his Lombard 
tongue ; they did not heed that he prophesied hard things 
to them instead of smooth ; they only knew that some 
strange Power spoke through him, as he stood in the 
pulpit of the immense dark church, in his black-and- 

8o Florence 

white robes, grasping a crucifix in his hand, which he 
held out to them as if pleading with them to learn 
what self-denial meant, while they stood in awestruck 
and breathless silence below. 

I have not space to tell you all the consequences of 
his preaching ; you must read the story for yourselves. 
Florence became a different city ; many people turned 
their backs on their old lives, and became from thence- 
forth God-fearing, sober, and righteous. 

There is only one story I must relate, because it has 
to do with children. There were quite as many street- 
arabs in Florence as there are in any other large town 
to-day, and they were just as uncared-for and neglected. 
And as the times were lawless, so were these boys. In 
fact, they were a danger to everyone. They barricaded 
the streets, and would let no one pass until they had 
paid a kind of " toll " in money. They collected any 
wood that they could lay hands on, and made great bon- 
fires in the public squares, and they nearly killed, indeed 
they sometimes did kill, anyone who interfered with 
them, by pelting them with stones. 

In some marvellous way Savonarola got hold of these 
lads, and formed them into what seems to have been an 
organization like the " Boy Scouts." He divided them 
into bands according to the districts in which they lived. 
Each band had its own captain. And, more wonderful 
still, he persuaded them to turn their energies to more 
useful occupations than molesting peaceable travellers, 
burning useless bonfires, and throwing stones. One bon- 
fire, indeed, he permitted them to make. He had begged 
the grown-up people who gathered in the Cathedral to 
destroy a great many of their fine dresses, and their use- 
less ornaments and playthings, their powder, and paint, 













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Its Martyr 8i 

and false hair, their cards and dice. And he sent these 
bands of boys round to their houses to collect those 
things, and throw them into a big bonfire, which they 
had lit in the great square before the Palazzo Vecchio. 
This bonfire was called the " Bonfire of Vanities," and, 
if some things were destroyed in it that need not have 
been in better and happier times, I have no doubt that 
the fine ladies and pleasure-seeking young men felt 
that at least they had taken one decisive step in the 
right direction, when they parted with the baubles on 
which they had put such store, and over which they 
had spent so much time and money. 

That was at the beginning of Lent, 1496, and on the 
following Palm Sunday Savonarola collected all the 
children at San Marco, dressed, as many of them as 
could aflx)rd it, in little white robes, like surplices, and 
wearing wreaths of flowers on their heads, and, giving 
them tiny red crosses and sprigs of palm, to remind them 
of the first Palm Sunday, and of the Passion week which 
followed it so quickly, he led them through the streets 
to the Cathedral, singing hymns as they went. Surely, 
the man who could gather the children round him like 
this must have had a great, loving, simple heart. 

By this time he was Prior of San Marco, and, if we 
will, we can see the cell which he occupied, with its stool, 
desk, and crucifix, its bare floor and little arched window, 
and even a volume of his written sermons, brown with 
age, with beautifully neat notes made on the margin ; 
and, in a glass case on the wall, some fragments of his 
garments and a bit of the wood with which he was burned. 
For after all the love and enthusiasm and devotion that 
he inspired, he died a martyr's death, as so many other 
reformers have done. 


82 Florence 

For by-and-by the greater part of the people grew 
tired of being preached at, and of always being told to 
lead strict lives, and fell back into their old ways, and 
wished the Prior of San Marco would hold his tongue. 
Then the Pope, Alexander VI. — whose real name was 
Roderigo Borgio, who was, perhaps, the most wicked 
man that had ever filled that office — became tired of 
Savonarola's words of warning, because he preached 
against things which were very wrong, but which both 
the Pope and the clergy allowed themselves to do, and 
he tried to stop him by offering to make him a Cardinal. 

Savonarola refused the bribe, and went on with his 
sermons. Then the Pope excommunicated him, and for- 
bade him to preach. The Prior obeyed the order for 
six months ; then, as he watched the terrible wickedness 
which was going on unrebuked in the Church, as well 
as in the outside world, he could no longer forbear. 
He began to preach again. And now he boldly de- 
nounced the Pope, and said that, instead of being "called 
by the Holy Ghost " to his office, he had bought it, just 
as he might have bought some worldly business, which 
was quite true. Naturally, this made the Pope very 
angry indeed, and the end soon came. 

Savonarola and two of his monks were arrested in San 
Marco one April evening in the year 1498, and dragged 
to the Palazzo Vecchio, where they were cruelly tortured, 
in the vain hope that the Prior would unsay his words, 
and that his followers would agree with him. After 
that, they were imprisoned for more than a month in 
the Palace ; we can see the little cell which Savonarola 
occupied, far up in the tower. Then, on May 19th, 
messengers from Rome arrived, carrying the death-sen- 
tence with them. Once more the three brave men were 

Its Martyr 83 

put to torture, in the hope of wringing a denial from 
them, but with no better result, and on the night of 
May 22nd they were told to prepare to die. 

The news came as a relief, for their poor limbs had 
been racked and twisted until they were quite out of 
shape, and they must have been suffering agonies. If 
we go into the great hall of the Palazzo, which is so 
magnificent with its gilt and painted ceiling, its frescoed 
walls, and its polished floor, we shall see where the three 
friends passed their last night on earth, each in his 
separate corner, for they were not allowed to be together. 

Next morning they went up to the little Chapel of 
San Bernardo, on the floor above, a tiny place, but 
with walls covered with beautifully painted frescoes by 
the famous artist, Ghirlandajo. Here Savonarola 
celebrated the Holy Communion, of which they par- 
took, and very soon afterwards they were led out into 
the Piazza, or Square, in front of the Palace, to die. 
We can see the exact spot. It is marked by a stone in 
the pavement a little way out from the right-hand 
corner of the building. 

Before their execution their gowns were stripped ofl^ 
them, as a sign that the Church had cast them out. 
The Bishop who performed this oflice for Savonarola 
was empowered to say : ^^ I separate thee from the 
Church Militant," but, confused and nervous, he added, 
" and from the Church Triumphant." 

" Nay," replied Savonarola — and we can fancy how 
his voice would ring out in spite of his weakness — 
" from the Church Militant, but not from the Church 
Triumphant. Thou hast no power to do that." 

So the three friends passed to the Church Trium- 
phant, or at least to the Church Expectant, chanting the 




TelDeum, andirepeating the Creed. And we are thankful 
to remember that their death was a swift one, for they 
were mercifully hanged before they were burned. 

Four hundred years have passed since then, and all 
Christendom knows now — even the Church that cast 
him out — what a deadly error was committed on that 
May morning. Had they listened to his words, had 
they accepted his reforms, the city of Florence and the 
Church of Rome would have been spared many troubles 
that afterwards fell upon them. 

They saw their mistake when it was too late, but at 
least they owned it, and the life-sized statue of the 
martyr, carved in white marble, which now stands at 
the end of the hall where he slept his last earthly sleep, 
is a proof of the love and esteem with which his 
country looks back on his memory. 



Although the squares in Florence are more like paved 
market-places than anything else, and have not gardens 
in the centre, as so many of our squares have at home, 
there is no lack of gardens and open spaces outside the 
walls, where the citizens can enjoy country walks, or 
go for shade during the long, hot days of summer. 
First of all, there is Fiesole, which just looks like a 
tiny village, but which is really a Cathedral town, perched 
upon its hill-top, about two and a half miles distant. 
It hardly seems so far away, for the suburbs of the city 
stretch to the foot of the hill, which is covered wfth 
beautiful villas, standing in gardens, while a tramway 
takes us up to the top in a very short time. 

Its Surroundings and Festas 85 

On the other side of the valley is another hill, San 
Miniato, which is also covered with houses, and gardens, 
and shady walks, and there the car takes us to a level 
piece of ground, with plenty of seats, which is known 
as the Piazza Michel Angelo, because it was here that 
the great sculptor erected his fortifications, and from 
which we have a magnificent view of the city. 

Just below San Miniato are the Boboli Gardens, so 
called because an old family named Boboli once built 
a villa on part of the ground which they now occupy. 
This ground was very rocky, and when the Pitti Palace 
came to be erected, the stone for the building was taken 
from it. Of course this made a series of big quarries, and 
it is in these quarries that the gardens have been laid out, 
and, as the nooks and corners are naturally very sheltered, 
all sorts of tropical plants grow here, which make the 
grounds exceedingly beautiful as well as interesting. 

Farther down the Arno, to the west of the city, is 
the great Cascine, or Public Park. This is a delightful 
place, especially for family picnics. For it is almost 
entirely covered by great trees, just like a thick forest, 
through which little paths run, and two broad carriage- 
drives. One of these is shady, and is a popular resort 
for people who own carriages, in the heat of summer, 
while the other, which runs along the banks of the 
Arno, is warm and sunny, and is a favourite promenade 
for everyone in the cold winter days. 

It is not all wooded, however, for here and there 
the trees open out and show shady little meadows, 
just like those we find in Switzerland, where the grass 
grows quite long and thick, an uncommon thing in 
Italy. Here parties of holiday-makers can go and 
spend the livelong day, the elders resting under the 

86 Florence 

trees, and the children enjoying themselves in the 

On Ascension Day a very pretty Festa, or Fete, is 
held in the Cascine. This is the " Giorno dei Grilli," 
the Festival of the Crickets — insects very much like 
grass-hoppers. All the children get up early on that 
day, go into the Park and catch these tiny creatures, and 
put them in little cages made of wire, just like bird- 
cages, only much smaller. Then they carry them home, 
or take them as presents to their friends, and if the 
grillo chirps lustily when it is taken indoors, it means 
good luck to the house and all its inmates during the 
coming year. 

Another interesting Festa is on Easter Even, when 
a great crowd assembles in front of the Duomo to see 
a number of fireworks set alight by a dove of fire, 
which seems to fly from the high-altar down the 
church and through the open door. Of course, the 
creature is of metal, and is drawn along a wire, and is 
artificially lit up, but it is a very pretty sight. After 
the dove has done her work she flies back to the 
altar, and it is supposed that on the way in which she 
performs her duties depend the chances of a good or 
bad harvest. 

The origin of this custom was, that long centuries 
ago, a member of one of the noble Florentine families 
went as a Crusader to the Holy Land, and on his return 
he brought a piece of flint from the Holy Sepulchre, 
from which, with the aid of a piece of steel, the spark 
was struck which lit the Sanctuary lamps in the Cathe- 
dral on Easter Even. 

For, as you know, in the Roman Catholic Church 
there is always a light burning before the altar, and this 

Its Surroundings and Festas 87 

is only extinguished once a year, from the evening of 
Maundy Thursday to Easter Even ; then it is relit. 

But other churches in the city wanted to kindle 
their Sanctuary lamps from this stone also, so, instead 
of carrying the stone all round, which would have taken 
a great deal of time, various lamps or lanterns were lit 
from the newly-kindled light in the Duomo, and taken 
to the other churches in a magnificent wooden car, 
richly ornamented, and drawn by two white oxen 
decorated with scarlet trappings, and wearing chaplets 
of flowers between their horns. Now, however, the 
car does not go from church to church : it only conveys 
the fireworks to the Duomo, where they are lit in the 
manner described. 

Then there is the Festa of "Befana," or Epiphany, 
when the children have their plates filled by the person 
whom we should call Santa Claus, but whom they call 
Befana, who is supposed to be an old woman who is 
quite black because she lives in the chimney all the 
rest of the year, and of whom the little ones stand in 
awe. Another Festa is that of San Giovanni, or St. John 
(the Baptist), the Patron Saint of the city, which takes 
place on June 24th, when the Duomo and Campanile 
are beautifully illuminated, and fireworks are set off 
from one of the bridges over the Arno. These fire- 
works form the signal for lighting niinla'ous bonfires, 
which have been built q;>, the. tops .pf the hills over- 
looking the Valley of tv^'e-\^rnQ,.QO,.that in whatever 
direction one looks there j«»;a:bJa;Z€ 'of' light. 

Later on, on September 7th,''cbmes the " Rificolone," 
or Feast of the Lanterns, which is now observed 
principally by children, but which used to be observed 
by grown-up people as well. It is celebrated by all 

88 Florence 

the children going out in the evening when it is dark, 
with little lanterns made of coloured paper stretched 
over thin strips of cane, which can be bent so as to 
take any shape — that of a ball, a fish, a bell, a boat, 
or a basket. These' are carried at the end of wooden 
rods, and the children go swinging them up and down, 
vying with each other who can show the prettiest 
lantern, and singing such rhymes as this : 

" Here is a basket ; look to me, 
For a better basket you ne'er shall see." 

There is just one Festa more that we may mention, 
and that is the " Nut Fair " — we might almost say 
" Nut Fairs," for one is held on every Sunday during 
Lent, at a different gate of the city. These fairs are 
very much looked forward to, especially by the children, 
who save up their money to spend at the stalls which 
are erected on either side of the gate, and look quite 
gay, draped with bright red and white cotton, and 
ornamented with flags and flowers. They are piled up 
with hazel-nuts and walnuts, but other things are sold 
as well — oranges, and sweets, and dried fruits of every 
description. Then there are portable ovens, in which 
stout old country-women bake brigidini — cakes made 
of aniseed and flour, which are kneaded on a little 
table, and th^n' slippe.d into the oven by means of an 
iron spade wivh a long h-indle. Other cakes are sold 
as well, and tiny i:rinjc,ets, und when the children go 
home in the evenings they are laden with many little 
trifles dear to their .c)iil(i;5h hearts. 




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^ 6 1940